I am.

I am someone who fits into a lot of different categories, has different labels.  I am:

A person who has Major Depressive Disorder, Anxiety and PTSD.

A person who is an Aunt,  a Sister, a friend.

A person with physical disabilities, a chronic illness and chronic pain.

A social worker.

A person in recovery from alcohol and drugs. 12 years clean and sober.

I am proud of all of these things I am. Let me tell you al little bit of my story, and how dealing with these things has led to be a better of the other things.  

I spent many years struggling with mental illness, undiagnosed.  I decided the best way to deal with what I was feeling was to drink and use drugs. It “made” me popular, happy, and numb.  It also brought on a lot more problems.   I got sober, for the last time, 12 years ago. There are many way people get and stay sober. I have used mental health therapy, 12 step programs and friends. At the beginning of that journal, a social worker helped me get where I am today.

I worked for years in retail. In 2007 I graduated from Mt. Mercy with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. I started my career as a substance abuse counselor that same year.  I was a professional helper, who had my own helping community. I was finally in a positon where I was open and willing to be diagnosed with mental illness, and taking my medication.  I found my calling, my life work, helping others.

I have been blessed to have a strong and large family. This includes parents, 2 brothers, various aunts, uncles and cousins.  I have also created my own fam. This includes friends, and their children, who are an important part of my life, just as my family is. I have and still am supported and loved by both groups of people.  I found my calling sharing just a taste of that support with people who were struggling with mental illness and substance abuse.  I found a calling in helping people remember that regardless of where they are in life, they are worthy of pride, of respect, of love. I found a calling letting people know that mistakes have been made, but rebuilding is always possible.  These are all things that were shown to me.

In 2014 I moved to Las Vegas.  I was a substance abuse counselor, with a Master in Social Work. I became sick in February of 2016, when a cyst was discover on my bile duct.  By December of 2016 I was, without exaggerating, near death. My family brought me back to Iowa City, and I started a year of daily medical appointments, physical therapy, mental health appointments.  I was at the bottom, both physically and mentally. I was diagnosed with a rare condition, Malnutrition. It has affected every part of my body and mind. There were times when we didn’t know if the doctors could help me get healthy enough for surgery, we didn’t know if I would be able to walk  without help, we didn’t know if I would have the physical or mental energy to work again. The last was the hardest to deal with. My entire life was turned upside down, I live with a new normal, but my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to continue working with my passion, helping others.

In 2020 I am much healthier than we ever thought possible. I have physical disabilities, I walk with a walker. I am unable to work more than part time. I am able to help people. I am able to share my strength, hope, faith and believe with other people.  People are often surprised I will share all this information with others that I will tell people “I understand” that I will reach out to help those I don’t know.  But help has been, and still is, given to me every day.  By people I know and by strangers.  If sharing what has happened to me at the bottom and at the top of my life helps someone else, then I have fulfilled my passion.

~ Beth Poma

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