My Story Matters: Audrey Colegrove

**Below is a story from a brave human being sharing their lived experience. Please be cautioned that, although we believe their story instills hope that recovery is possible, it may be triggering for some individuals.***

Hi, my name is Audrey. I study psychology at UCF. I’m a Disney cast member, and I’m also an intern at MHACF and a research assistant at IST. I don’t have a lot of spare time, but in those rare moments that I do, you can find me watching Star Trek or the Office, playing trumpet, chilling with my cats Buttons and Finn, or making random Target runs. I’m definitely a big nerd, especially for psychology and statistics and I’ll stop at almost nothing to make people laugh.

I would say for me there were three major crises, and they each had their own challenges and their own stories of recovery that make me entire story what it is.

The first one came on kind of slowly, as in a lot built up to it. In school, I generally did really well. I never had to try too hard and I still did well in both classes and on standardized tests. In high school, I started to struggle a little. At first I just attributed it to classes increasing in difficulty, and tried to work harder. But then I noticed that I was tired and unmotivated almost all the time, except the times when I had a ton of undirected energy. I couldn’t get the energy up to do things with my friends, and getting out of bed in the morning was a major struggle. My moods started to decline too, I didn’t enjoy things like I used to and I started withdrawing. I told my parents that I thought something was wrong, but they said it was just hormones and I’d be fine. I tried to believe them, but the feelings just got worse until I started having occasional thoughts of suicide. Fast forward to my first year in college. I went away to school, to USF. My first semester was rough, but my second semester was even worse. I would spend days at a time in bed, skip classes and sleep almost all the time, and have regular and serious thoughts of suicide including creating viable plans.

When I got back for my third semester, I decided I needed help. USF had a counseling center, and I decided to go there. I clicked pretty well with my counselor right away, and she was helping me with practical ways to feel better. She had me do things like keep a log of my moods. I was really starting to feel better. I was going to class regularly, and staying up for the entire day. I was able to keep up, for the most part, with my work. I even got a pet cat to keep me company and having something to take care of was helping to give me a purpose. I didn’t want to die anymore. I was still struggling with the mood changes and stuff like that, so my counselor helped me make an appointment to see a psychiatrist. Things were definitely starting to look up.

That’s when my second crisis happened. One problem I’d been having was that I wasn’t getting along well with my roommates. It wasn’t entirely their fault, and it wasn’t entirely mine. We just had our differences. I had written about suicide in my journal, something that I suppose in retrospect could have looked like a suicide note. My roommates were going through my things for some reason when I was away at class and they found it. They called the police and had me Baker Acted. I came home from class that day like everything was normal. I sat down to do my homework and I heard police sirens. Police officers showed up at my door. Without going into too much gruesome detail, three of the police officers who came to Baker Act me ended up raping me. After they did that, they put different clothes on me and took me to the behavioral hospital. I was in a state of absolute shock. My anxiety went through the roof, and I didn’t know what to do. All I wanted was for everything to be normal. Instead of returning to normalcy, my parents, who were I guess notified by the school, made me withdraw from my classes and move home. As much as I hated it at the time, that really ended up being a good thing.

As soon as I got home, I started seeing a counselor again. We didn’t click at first, but she really helped me out a lot. She helped me figure out how to retroactively medically withdraw from some of the classes from my second term at USF which really helped my GPA. I eventually told her what happened with the officers, and she was a great source of support. I told my closest friends what was going on, at first just with my mental illness. I don’t think they fully understood, but they were really supportive. With my friends, my counselor, and medication I improved a lot. I was still embarrassed about my illness, though, and I think that limited my recovery to an extent. Interning at MHACF changed that for me. I started to see mental illness as something to not be embarrassed about, and recovery as something that was definitely possible.

I had been doing really well, when my mood started to decline again. My depression was getting really intense. I had all the resources at my disposal- a counselor, understanding friends, and I even worked at a place where I could have gotten mental health referrals and help; but none of that mattered at the time. I was so depressed I wanted to end my own life. I was about to do it when I saw other people and I didn’t want to hurt them. Call it what you will- fate, divine intervention, whatever- but that saved my life in the moment. But I still couldn’t bring myself to “burden” others and ask for help. At my counseling appointment I was so off that my counselor noticed right away something was wrong. I finally got the courage to tell her how bad I was, and she made me go to a behavioral hospital. I was afraid, but it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. While I was there, I came out to my parents and told them about the rape- they were incredibly supportive. That alone was almost as helpful as the hospital. The staff was amazing and the psychiatrist helped me get my medication in check.

I still have issues with my moods and with anxiety. But I am in a much better place than I was before. Trying to get better is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever dealt with. It requires a lot of work and patience. I have to deal with setbacks and understanding that they aren’t the end and that I’m still doing better. I realize now that recovery isn’t linear. There will be times that I need more help and support than others, and that’s ok.

I’m able to say that I’m happy to be alive, and for me that is a big win no matter what.