Diana is a peer specialist who works in the Trilogy Beacon. A passionate advocate for recovery and trauma-informed care, she was recently the guest speaker at the Illinois Region 1 Integrated Behavioral Health Network Meeting where she shared her story of recovery:
“I was born in Houston, TX to parents who had emigrated from Nigeria. Growing up, my parents spoke their native tongue, Yoruba, and we ate native dishes like pounded yams with stew for dinner and Ogi or Akara for breakfast. While I was still a young child, my family moved back to the village where my mom grew up. One of my fondest childhood memories is of when the well would run dry and my extended family would all have to call out to ask our neighbors for water. That memory is dear to me because I felt included and part of a strong family unit.
Then, my family moved back to Houston and things changed. At the age of eight, I began to witness domestic violence and eventually my parents divorced. At the same time, I became the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of different men, it would happen to me two more times as a teen, and was bullied in school. My family tried helping me, but a lack of finances and a lack of access to proper resources made it difficult. There was also a lack of understanding of what I was going through and when their first attempts at getting help for me didn’t work, I lost their emotional support. I grew up thinking this was my life, there was no hope.
In high school, I started having bouts of depression and had difficulty controlling my emotions so I reached out to a school counselor. She was the first person who offered me support for my trauma. She was someone I could actually talk to about what I was going through. After I graduated, I continued to see school counselors at the college where I got my associates degree and at Loyola University Chicago, where I was accepted as a transfer student.
My counselor at Loyola connected me to Quetzal Center, a rape crisis center attached to Community Counseling Centers of Chicago (C4), so I could begin to cope with my past trauma. While receiving counseling services at Quetzal, I started to experience panic attacks. I was anxious because I was having trouble finding a job or a place to live. A counselor at Quetzal referred me to Trilogy.
At Trilogy, I started to take care of myself. I began working with a caseworker and, with the support of her and my therapist at Quetzal, I decided to start taking medication for my depression. Soon, I was referred to Trilogy’s employment team and with their help I was able to get a job. After I had a job, I was able to secure and maintain housing. Now, I am a Peer Support Specialist and work as an Employment Specialist in the Trilogy Beacon. I am a certified WRAP (Wellness, Recovery, Action, Plan) Facilitator, a CRSS (Certified Recovery Support Specialist), and was recently trained to facilitate WHAM (Whole Health Action Management) peer groups. Because of my history, I am also really passionate about Trilogy being an organization that integrates trauma-informed care into all of the services it provides. I proudly sit on two of Trilogy’s trauma-informed care committees.
I learned through my journey of recovery that medication is not everything, but it played an important part in my self-care, as do individual and group therapy. My faith and being involved in my community also really help me. Most importantly, I’ve realized that the whole person needs to be well and that with proper support you can not only recover your life, but you can create a better one.”