I am a mother, daughter, woman, survivor, and therapist. I began this journey of mental health in my teen years. After two failed attempts at suicide and then a final one that was almost fatal and landed me in inpatient for seven days I knew something had to change for me in order to thrive and have a successful life. The journey was hard and painful at times. I had no experience with therapy other than one woman my mother had taken me to as a younger teen and then told later I could not go back and just needed to go and confess all my sins with a minister so that not only would my soul be saved but all my problems relieved.

That ultimately did not help but only lead to much more damage and shame and hence the suicide attempts. I had been put on medication for the mood swings, but not educated about why or how I may respond to the medications, but that they would help with my depression. I took them and went off to college as any “good girl” does and with my heart full of hopes and dreams.

In my sophomore year, I fell in “love” with a boy and thought I have finally met the one. I had the feeling again I had only discovered once as a young adolescent with my highschool sweetheart but later was forced to dump him because he was a “bad boy” and smoked the “herb”. I was heartbroken, but again as the “good girl” that had been raised in a legalistic religious home I did what I was told was best and would save me from the fires of hell.

This boy I had fallen for in college was not only gifted my heart but also my virginity and with him leaving me two weeks after gloating about how that had been his plan the whole time, my mental health took a steep decline. I became severely depressed and spun deeper into shame since I had given him the one thing that I had been saving (growing up in the purity culture abstinence was the only way and sex was only to be enjoyed in the confines of marriage) for the man I thought I would marry and spend the rest of my life with. Hence an overdose and trip to the critical care unit the next morning after digesting over 500 pills of Ibprophen and consuming more alcohol than any young lady weighing barely 110 lbs soaking wet should consume. The doctors reported that it was a miracle that there was no liver damage because it should have crystalized and killed me.

Through the help of some experienced therapists, friends for support, and a good psychiatrist I was able to return to school and finish my degree in criminology and psychology. Even though upon graduating with all this knowledge and therapy I still had many unhealed parts that lead me into a very toxic relationship that I later married. He was diagnosed bipolar, with narcissistic personality disorder, used alcohol to cope, and refused to get any help for his mental health. But due to my history with my past, I was still determined to stay and make it work. I thought if I could somehow just love him enough one day he would stop using substances and become the man that I saw behind the pain and abuse that he had suffered at the hand of his father that was a preacher.

That of course did not happen and ended finally after a choice I made on a trip to Italy where I was training and teaching in the hair industry. I was not allowed by my husband to pursue my dreams of becoming a psychological profiler for the FBI but being a cosmetologist was something he approved. And even though he had emotionally, physically, and mentally abused me for 8 years, I was accused of being the “bigger sinner” so therefore he could divorce me with a clear conscience.

Now fast forward…..there is more to my journey but ultimately my decision to become a clinical mental health counselor and expressive arts therapist has roots in these lived experiences – my childhood, the family system I was raised in, generational trauma, and abusive romantic relationships throughout my life – the experiences often felt uncontrollable and overwhelming. I never felt like I was able to make sense of it until I discovered expressive arts therapy as an adult.

As a child and really as I moved into my teen years, I had tumultuous experiences with emotions, and it felt like there was no way for me to express them at times in a healthy productive way. I feared the feelings I had inside and lost sight of who I was for a time.  I could often feel the emotions of others around me, and I was very sensitive to what people said or did without understanding why.

When I discovered the power of expressive arts therapy, I felt relief inside me. For the first time, I felt like I had an outlet for the multitude of feelings I would never have been able to put into words. Through art, music, movement, writing, and drama, I was able to express myself, let go of the pain and trauma I had experienced, and gain a deeper understanding of myself and deeper healing.

From that point on, I began to explore expressive arts therapy and completed a master’s program in clinical mental health counseling and expressive arts. I knew this was a field I wanted to be a part of because it has the power to help others as it had helped me. I wanted to be able to share this wonderful form of therapy, support people to explore their emotions, and help them to reclaim their sense of identity and belonging.

Thus I am now an expressive arts therapist and licensed psychotherapist. It has been an incredible journey so far and I’m so grateful to be able to help others heal and grow through this powerful form of therapy.