Contributed by Amanda Lehto
I have had personal experience with mental health issues both with myself and my children. My expertise is in sharing my lived experience with individuals who need or want a positive view on the possibility of recovery with mental health and substance abuse. I too have a passion for working on my mental health issues and learning everyday from set backs I have had. It makes my recovery a priceless endeavor.
I was born and raised in Idaho where I raised my 3 children. I enjoys spending as much time as possible with my children, who are now grown and on their own.
My professional experience includes working for a managed care company traveling the state of Idaho teaching, talking and presenting on recovery and resilience. I presented a Recovery and Resilience presentation to 200 counselors, therapists and other mental health providers. This presentation was important in the development of Peer Support, fighting mental health stigma and showing that recovery is possible. I worked for 4 years developing and maintaining Peer Support throughout Idaho, giving presentations, appearing at recovery activities and speaking about stigma. I personally facilitated 10 of the 11 Mental Health First Aid trainings in rural locations throughout the state to help give resources and knowledge to underserved areas. The trainings were a part of a partnership with The Speedy Foundation.
As a young athlete, I remember struggling with the pressures of winning. I so wanted to please my coaches so I worked hard and ran after practice, on the weekends, and breaks so I could get better. The pressure at the starting line felt like an elephant sitting on my chest, my heart beating 100 miles an hour and my body tingling. I knew once I started running all of these things would go away. When our cross country season was over I would start to feel alone and lost. I would try to get as much time alone as I could with family and friends. If I had to be around people I would make sure to smile, laugh, and be silly so others would laugh too. At this time unfortunately I was not aware of mental health let alone knowing who to get help from.
In Junior High and High School, I participated in several sports. I believed it was going to be my only way to get to college. Nobody in my family had ever attended college so I wanted to be the first. I wanted to become someone. I felt alone in trying to obtain something that felt impossible.
It wasn’t impossible I ended up attending the College of Southern Idaho. I remember this as being one of my biggest challenges. I joined the cross country team and was excited about my newfound life at college. We were training harder than I had in High School and again I accepted the challenge. Halfway into the season, I would end up with bursitis in my hip. The pain was excruciating. The school sent me to a Doc and I was prescribed 800 mg of Motrin to take 3 times a day. I ended up not joining the track team due to the pain. That is when my depression kicked into high gear. My dreams were crushed. I quit hanging out with others from track and alcohol became my best friend. I felt my world had ended and I remember driving back to school after a break and thinking about driving off the road. I was lost and didn’t know what to do next. My thoughts of never becoming something took over my mind. I lost my way of escaping my thoughts and having a chance to be alone with my thoughts of being free and the feeling of belonging. There was nothing for me to accomplish, no goals and now no need for life.
My nature is to keep trudging forward. No matter what be positive with my thoughts and actions. I was told being positive in your thoughts brings positivity to your world. I wanted to live yet the feeling of being lost and not being successful kept me in the place of having thoughts of suicide. I always am looking for something that will give me the same free and happy feelings.
I have learned that tools for coping with my illness have come and gone and I know it will be ok. I still have setbacks and I have a recovery plan that I have shared with my therapist and my children so they can help me when I can’t remember why I am here and what tools I have.