Interview by Amanda Kearney-Smith

Amy grew up in Iowa in a single-parent household, her father passed away suddenly when she was 12 yrs old. Amy’s memories of her upbringing were that her parent’s relationship was strained, she remembers her father being abusive and dismissive of her brother. She still loved him wholeheartedly, but Amy wonders if  her mental health issues stem from some of this early trauma.

Amy feels like she’s always been an anxious person ever since she can remember. She was diagnosed with ADHD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder as a Junior in high school. Her anxiety had a negative impact on her ability to deal with the loss of her father, when he died she dealt with a lot of mixed emotions given their dysfunctional relationship. After his unexpected passing she had nightmares regularly about her father returning and dying again, these dreams re-traumatized her further. This set the stage for a lifetime of restless sleep and anxiety attacks at night – she suffered from severe insomnia all through junior high and high school. This affected her ability to remain attentive in class and achieve the social status she desired, bullying started in high school.

Eventually Amy was prescribed a high dose of medication to manage her ADHD and she started going to a therapist, which she says “changed her life”. She learned how to meditate and acquired strategies to deal with anxiety attacks and getting back to sleep. Amy still struggles with establishing new relationships and trusting men in particular.

Despite all of the bad she feels all of this has made her more aware of her feelings and behaviors – she uses mindfulness techniques every night to calm down and sleep. She stays active – exercises and runs – to cope with her anxiety. She recognizes that she has to accept herself first and others will as well.

Now Amy attends Wartburg College in Iowa, she spent the fall semester in Colorado for an internship opportunity with the Colorado Mental Wellness Network. She is a double major in Psychology and Business and interested in pursuing graduate school for Industrial Organizational Psychology. Amy runs track at Wartburg, loves to go out to eat by herself and is interested in all kinds of music.

Amy wants young people to know that there is NOTHING wrong with feeling different – if you have a mental health issue there are plenty of tools and resources that help. She says the Colorado Mental Wellness Network’s message of empowerment is so important – and our motto “self-care is not optional” – is really true.

Amanda Kearney-Smith

I founded the Network as the Executive Director in 2011 and, before that, I was a program director at Mental Health Colorado. My educational background is in Developmental Psychology, but living with bipolar disorder has drawn me to this work. I'm most passionate about protecting the civil rights and dignity of others. In my free time, I love reading, practicing yoga, and spending time with my family here and in Illinois.

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