Hello! My name is Christiana and am now 29 years old and still alive. This wasn't always a given, I was a patient at Children's Hospital Colorado. I was an inpatient in 2008 and continued to be an outpatient until 2010.
In 2008, I was broken. After particularly bad night in December, I found myself as a resident of Children's Hospital in the Gary Pavilions. I want to tell you that suddenly everything started making sense and that was all I needed, but sadly it was not.
How I found the strength to continue to live again was a journey and many people contributed, however, to me, the real superheroes of Children's Hospital Colorado were the creative therapists in the Ponzio Creative Arts Therapy Program, specifically Katherine Reed. (Tony was pretty great too. He introduced me to the Thunderstick.)
Empowering this program to help more children is vital. There was something just too formal and awkward about traditional therapy for me that didn't allow me to be honest with most of the staff. Weeks before being admitted to the inpatient program, my traditional therapist told my mom I was doing better and most likely did not need more therapy. I was an excellent liar, but clearly this was not the case.
I built a sense of trust and understanding with the creative arts therapists. These were truely the people that saved my life. I may never be the type of person that can express myself in words and finding art at that time finally freed my mind to heal.
However, I want to say, it wasn't just therapy that helped me. Caring and concerned people like yourself did as well.
Since I was admitted in December, it was the Christmas season. One day they took me and my fellow peers to a room. In that room volunteers rolled in presents. It hit me hard. I felt unworthy or their donations. There are many children at Children's Hospital that the only thing they wanted for Christmas was to be able to live. However, that was not us. We were the kids who were not terminally ill and did not want to live. I thought to myself, how can I deserve this nice of treatment when I am so much more fortunate than many. Out of all the presents, I was giving a Teddy Bear. I won't go into why but I want you to know, for the time I was living at Children's Hospital, that small gift of Teddy Bear, even though I did not feel I deserved it, meant quite a lot to me. Please know that even the smallest gift or donation DOES make the biggest of differences.
Art Therapy wasn't just a bandaid like everything else before had been. It was something that empowered me to deal with my mental illness for the rest of my life. I know there are others out there who can benefit from have alternative therapies and we need to empower the hospital to let the Ponzio Creative Arts Therapy Program to continue their work.
Art will forever be a part of me. I now am an adult. Not only did art therapy inspire me to live but it inspired me to be an artist. After my experience with the Creative Arts Therapy program, I earned a BFA in studio art with a concentration in Drawing. I continued my art into my profession afterwards. While in therapy, Katherine asked me to design the first Ponzio Pedalers jersey in 2009. Now 9 years later, I work at the same company that made those jerseys.
I am not ashamed of my story. I want to tell my story not to inspire pity for a younger me, but so others know what a big impact these resources have. Please feel free to share.
In 2014, I collaborated with the department to make a promotional video for their Art Therapy program. Please take the time to watch this, to understand why it made such a big difference for me.
I am not saying this was easy or it ever gets easy but every little bit of help eases the burden of mental illness.
I hope my story will inspire you to contribute in whatever way you can and spread the word that traditional therapy is not the only option. You can save a life.
In July, I will ride with the Ponzio Pedalers. I will be riding for every patient I met along the way and every one that has come since. This is finally my chance to give back and I hope you will help me.