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Youth Wraparound Support Partner - Multnomah County

 

Sam is originally from the small town of Kelso, WA. Both her mother and father worked during the day, so she and her sister spent much of their time at their great grandparents' house. Sam didn't experience much adversity in her younger years; she was a happy-go-lucky child who did well in school and had many friends. However, at the age of nine, Sam's life changed forever. After wetting the bed several times (abnormal for her age), her parents took her to the doctor to see what was going on. After some routine blood work, she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. 

At nine, Sam couldn't fully understand the depths of her diagnosis, which meant that most of the weight fell on her parents' shoulders. For the next several years, Sam struggled to come to terms with her diabetes. She felt embarrassed when she had to go to the school nurse's office for daily finger pokes and insulin shots. She didn't like talking about or even hearing others discuss her disease, and only referred to it as the "D word." As time went on, Sam became more comfortable, but her disease became harder to manage as she started having to take responsibility for her own care. By eighteen, she'd experienced multiple complications, including blown blood vessels in her eyes, kidney problems, and chronic leg pain. 

Soon after moving out, Sam was sexually assaulted by an acquaintance. It was then that she began experiencing severe depression and anxiety. For several months she only got out of bed to use the bathroom and (sometimes) to eat. As her chronic pain worsened, it started to consume her life, and taking care of her diabetes seemed impossible. Sam turned to drug abuse and other forms of self-harm to cope. She was living in a haze, popping (and eventually snorting) the drugs she'd been prescribed for anxiety and depression. Suicidal thoughts and ideation soon became a daily struggle. At the same time, her long-time partner relapsed and Sam, who hadn't been exposed to hard drugs, was now surrounded by heroin needles, spoons, and other drug paraphernalia. Finally, her mental health took a turn for the worse, and she attempted suicide. 

After her attempt, Sam realized that she needed to seek professional help. She started seeing a psychiatrist, who prescribed antidepressants. The medication helped for awhile until she started experiencing new symptoms, including extreme aggravation, racing thoughts, and insomnia. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and after several months and many medications, Sam finally started to feel like herself again.

Sam's unique experiences and strong desire to help others have helped her to realize her true calling: working with youth who are experiencing similar mental and physical health obstacles. She was introduced to peer support and eventually found Youth ERA. For self-care, Sam loves to volunteer with animals and enjoys yoga, hiking, and playing with her three dogs, Rocky, Sadie, and Bliss.