Maria Estrada had been hiding both her mental health issues, addiction struggles and the physical scars on her arms from years of self-harm, covering her wrists with bracelets. As she began to understand herself and get the support she needed she began to think “I’m actually pretty strong. I’m pretty brave, and the bracelets started coming off and my self started coming out…”
When she was younger, Maria suffered from stomach pains and headaches and her mother told her there was nothing wrong. She spent most of her time alone and afraid, without the emotional attention that a young girl needs to thrive. The year before high school, her anxiety and mental health issues escalated when she began dealing with the pain through self-harm by means of cutting and self medicating using Opioids. That same year, Maria felt that life was no longer worth living and one night, alone and afraid, she tried to take her own life by overdosing.
When the attempt on her life failed and she awoke the next morning, no one had noticed.
With the insight of a person twice her age, Maria knew she needed help. That very morning, she walked herself into a doctor’s office and told them she wanted to kill herself. She was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, was given anti-anxiety medication (that later became her drug of choice) and was recommended to a counselor.
In her last semester of grade 12, just months before graduating, she says “my mental health just took me down again.” When asked to describe the pain of depression now, Maria says “It hurt to be alive. It just hurt. I would wake up and just be like ‘I have to do this again’. I have to be alive again and it hurts so badly.”
Maria Estrada had her third suicide attempt that semester and spent several months bouncing between hospitals before she was diagnosed with PTSD, borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar and addiction issues and Maria was thankful for the diagnoses and went as far as to thank her doctors for letting her know she’s not crazy. Now she knows there is something wrong with her that explains why she has been this way her whole life.
Maria started recovering from mental health quickly, however, her addiction had taken a hold on her, she started with one pill then 5 then 10 and suddenly she was taking bottles to cope with her daily stressors. Maria overdosed 3 times with the last one that was almost fatal. Maria stated “I lost everything to addiction: my job, friends, family, my life, all gone.” She started to go to Narcotics Anonymous and quickly felt hope. She followed a suggestion, got a sponsor and started to work the 12 steps.
Maria Estrada is an inspiration to us all. She has big plans for the world of mental health and addiction and she hopes to land right where she started, helping kids like her. She graduated from College with honors specializing in concurrent disorders and now has a job helping other addicts.
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