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Allie’s Journey to Healing: ‘Even on the toughest days, I know I can make it through’

By Allie, Children's Hospital Colorado Patient Ambassador

October 21, 2020

Allie nearly lost her life to mental illness. In this personal essay, she bravely shares about her journey from desperation to hope – and how Children’s Colorado helped her to heal.

Allie, Pediatric Mental Health Institute Ambassador

As a child, I always struggled with early symptoms of anxiety: trouble sleeping, sweaty palms, excessive worrying and obsessions, which became increasingly worse after elementary school. My parents figured I was just a driven and focused child, never attributing the pressure I put on myself to the presence of anxiety.

Going through a major move and my parents’ divorce intensified my symptoms and led me to experience depression, self-harm and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Coupled with a difficult home life, I became isolated and hopeless, making every day harder than the last.

Middle school was a challenging time as I struggled to balance a challenging schedule and find friends. I had severe anxiety and depression, but I didn’t have the tools to cope with my mental illness. At my worst, I would have around 10 intense panic attacks a week, each lasting multiple hours. Afterwards, I would be in so much pain and exhaustion that doing homework, interacting with friends or family, or even doing simple tasks felt impossible.

Entering high school, my anxiety and depression got much worse. Finally, my sophomore year of high school, my symptoms reached a peak, and I felt that I was no longer able to continue. That’s when I started to look for resources that might help me.

I desperately needed help, but there is so much stigma around receiving help for mental illness and even more for being hospitalized. Yet I knew it was a necessary step in my path to recovery. I was scared, so I went to the one place that I could trust: Children’s Hospital Colorado. I went to the Emergency Room and after a few conversations with the staff, together we decided it would be best for me to be admitted into inpatient treatment.

My time at the Children’s Colorado Pediatric Mental Health Institute allowed me to recover and grow. I learned about my mental health, developed coping skills and explored treatment options. I worked hard every day to get to a better place. The nurses made it such a comfortable environment where I felt safe to grow as a person, and the treatment was inclusive to my family, so we were all able to better understand and cope with my mental illness.

I was diagnosed with Major Depression, General Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, OCD and PTSD. I started medication for anxiety and depression and began seeing a therapist that really worked with me and helped in a way that I had never experienced before. After I was discharged from the hospital, I continued to do some of the outpatient programs that Children’s Colorado offered. The most impactful one was an anxiety group that specialized in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It pushed me to face my anxieties, and every week I made more progress in treatment. I started to take control of my life.

Eventually, after doing trauma work in therapy, continuing to monitor my symptoms, and meeting regularly with my providers at Children’s Colorado, I was able to get to a stable point where my symptoms were under control. I was finally able to cope with difficult situations without medication or unhealthy habits.

I am extremely grateful for my time at Children’s Colorado. Not only did my treatment shape my relationship with mental health, but it also saved my life and gave me hope for the future that I could get better. Thanks to the help I received at Children’s Colorado, I am now the happiest I have ever been, and even on tough days, I always know I am capable of making it through.

I continue to advocate for the resources that saved my life in the hopes that other adolescents who may be struggling can receive the life-changing support that I did.

As a Patient Ambassador, Allie is raising money for the Pediatric Mental Health Institute, so that more kids can access the support services they need to heal.  Donate to her fundraising page today.