Courage to Face the Struggle to become Stronger By: Kaeli Abreu

Hi, my name is Kaeli, and I'm 24 yrs. old. I was born and raised in a relatively small town where there is a common misconception that it is safe and protected from all the issues in the world. In reality, these issues exist in my home town, but are ignored. I have two passions in life: helping others & music. I try to look at life the way I do music. I enjoy most music genres, and even what I'm not so fond of, I still appreciate. Talent and art are exactly that, regardless of my opinion. I love spending time with my friends and family, and being outdoors. I'm a pretty positive person even through hard times, but I haven't always been that way.

Ever since I can remember, I have dealt with what seemed like almost constant feelings of sadness, worry and fear. Sometimes, I would know the reason and others, I had no idea. There would be times when I felt my will to live was gone or as if I was being chased by a murderer, about to lose my life, and have absolutely no clue as to why. It wasn't until I was 14, that I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. This didn't come as a surprise to me because I knew something was wrong. I accepted it easily. What I didn't accept was that it could ever get better. "You've always been this way, and you'll always be this way", I thought. Because of this, I didn't continue to seek help. I was also worried of what people would think. I didn't want people to start treating me like I was fragile, crazy or to be scared of me. Even when I wasn't alone, I always felt alone.

When I was 15, I was hospitalized and almost died due to a physical health condition. I was put on pain killers, and continued to receive prescriptions once out of the hospital. When I was taken off of the medication I had been prescribed, I was switched to a non-narcotic without any warning, assistance or information on withdrawal. I confused withdrawal with past symptoms I had prior to ending up in the hospital. I began to self-medicate using whatever I could find on the street. I thought my solution was in the pills I had previously been taking because they were the only thing that had ever seemed to help. I didn’t realize I would only make my physical health, as well as everything else in my life, worse by doing so.

My senior year, I began to have panic attacks that were so great in severity and frequency that I couldn't stay at school and after the first couple weeks, stopped going altogether. I managed to graduate through an alternative program. After graduation, I wanted a change and to get away from my home town. I thought if I left, I’d leave all my problems behind me as well. I moved to Las Vegas because it was the only other place I had immediate family. Still self-medicating, I was not making the best decisions, and that’s when I was introduced to heroin.

For 9 years, I was stuck in the revolving door that was my addiction. For the last two years, I began using meth as well as heroin daily. I ended up in rehab twice. I completed each 30-day program, only to relapse both times. During the near decade I lived like this, I spent a lot of time in abusive relationships. I was falling deeper and deeper into my own personal abyss. My mental and physical state began deteriorating rapidly. My bad decisions put me in a lot of dangerous situations. Because of my past physical and sexual abuse, I began to have night terrors and reoccurring nightmares of things I went through. I would later be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I had never really liked or been happy with myself, and over time I began to hate myself. I felt as though I had never been good enough or worth anything. I also felt like the causes of my PTSD were solely my fault because I had allowed myself to be there in the first place. I began to believe that I had put a target on my own back by being such a weak and worthless person. Surely, my aggressors wouldn’t have targeted me if I had any value, I thought. At the time, I failed to realize that they were sick people, and their actions were not a reflection of me and my self-worth but a reflection of their mental state.

For the first couple months, I couldn't even leave my house. I felt like I was always on edge and my senses seemed to be heightened. Sudden movements, loud noises and the feeling of something touching me would, at the very least startle me, and at the worst send me into an episode of panic