Defeat Transforms Into Recovery

“I am somebody.”

“I matter.”

“I like myself.”

Words like these were statements that 54-year-old Christy Crowder never thought she would be able to say about herself. Growing up in a household where she felt she barely existed, Christy was afraid to be anything more than a wallflower. That’s all changed now. “I thought I was an endless case, but that was far from the truth,” confided Christy.

Growing up in the shadows

Raised in Chanute, Christy barely talked at school, had few friends, and did what she could to get through her schoolwork. “My father didn’t speak to us. We were supposed to stay out of his way when he was home. My mother excluded me, always. She was affectionate when she wanted to be, but I wasn’t ever supposed to ask her for help or talk to her otherwise. She made it clear that I was ‘out,’ Not part of the conversation. Not part of the activity. Not welcome…period.” explained Christy. “I felt defeated growing up and did not think I would survive past elementary school.”

Years slowly passed, and after facing many years of abuse when she was 17, Christy quit school and eventually moved out. At 18, she started a career she found solace in, and it took her all over the United States – Pennsylvania, Michigan, the East Coast, and the Bay Area in San Francisco. As a professional live-in nanny, Christy wanted other children to experience what she hadn’t had growing up. “I wanted them to feel normal. I didn’t want them to feel like I did as a child,” she commented. “I wanted them to feel loved, seen, and heard. I wanted them to know they matter.”

All the while, as she built up impeccable references in her career, Christy still battled feelings that made her question herself and her self-worth. “Professionally, I knew I was great at my job,” explained Christy. “But personally, I was shy and had no confidence. I felt isolated and alone. I still felt as I had as a child.”

Breaking point

It’s no surprise Christy fought a daily battle against depression and anxiety. However, after a traumatic experience with one of her employers early on, Christy’s mental health became even more fragile, declining gradually as she continued to work. After 17 years as a nanny, she quit. Christy couldn’t function. She was suicidal. She was depressed. She hated herself. She developed body dysmorphia and couldn’t look at herself in the mirror. She was broken from years of trying to be better on her own and hiding how she felt from everyone.

Living in Tulsa at the time, she sought professional help through both inpatient and outpatient mental health options. Christy said she attended therapy sessions for seven years (at least once per week) when the light bulb came on, and she started to accept herself. “Over time and positive reinforcement, I grew new pathways in my brain – and I slowly started to feel better,” said Christy. “I continued therapy after that, going regularly for support.”

Recovery has its ups and downs

Diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder – depressive type, Christy’s recovery journey has been a winding road. Schizoaffective disorder is a chronic mental health condition characterized primarily by symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations or delusions, and mood disorder symptoms, such as mania and depression.

After recently moving back to Chanute during a delusional episode that left her homeless, Christy met SEKMHC outpatient therapist Ashleigh Dooley by accident. Through several by-chance interactions, they stabilized Christy and got her back on her feet. Ashleigh specializes in play therapy with children, and she isn’t currently taking new adult patients. However, because of their interactions, Ashleigh made an exception.

“I love Ashleigh!” exclaimed Christy. “It’s essential at this point to have a therapist to genuinely care – not just get through the hour of therapy and say they did their job for that day. Ashleigh cares!”

Working together since May 2022, Christy and Ashleigh have built a rapport built on compassion, care, and trust.

Christy’s recovery is going great, but it hasn’t been easy. “She recognizes her triggers, and she does so well with awareness. She’s getting so much better at taking action and advocating for her needs,” said Ashleigh. “She’s also broken ties with family members who do not support her recovery and leave her with negative feelings about herself. That was a huge breakthrough for her.”

Therapy is a lot of work, and Ashleigh shared that Christy does a “fantastic job.” Doing her homework between therapy sessions is paying off. “She’s constantly working on her skills,” explained Ashleigh. “It’s a joy to work with her because she’s really putting in the work.”

But – it’s not all work, according to Christy. Having a therapist who cares makes it all click. “Ashleigh helps me tremendously – she helps me stay stable from falling into the undertow of so many hurdles that occur once you fall. Having a truly caring therapist who will stand and support you through anything is so essential! Her care and support have made an enormous impact on my life,” divulged Christy.

Double the challenges

As Christy is working hard in her mental health recovery, she’s taking on another health battle with stage IV bladder cancer.

“I was just starting to see that it was possible to get back to work and start living my life, again,” Christy asserted. “Now, I have another challenge on my hands.”

Prepping to start immunology treatments at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, Christy is optimistic about the future.

Ashleigh said she has no doubts that Christy can achieve her mental health and personal goals. “She’s very determined and doing all the work. She’s in the right state of mind,” credited Ashleigh. “I applaud her!”

“I’ve gone from wanting to die to wanting to live!” exclaimed Christy. “It takes a lot of time, but I conquered things that I never before thought were possible. It is an extraordinary journey: the change occurs, and you don’t even realize it until the day your thoughts and feelings are new and transformed.”

The best part? Christy says, with confidence, “I control my life now. I can make my life better!” She’s in a healthy place mentally, which makes it possible for her to face her newest struggle with strength. She’s fought for her life once; she will do it, again.


Recovery is possible

Anyone facing a mental health crisis or emergency may call for help through our toll-free number: 1-866-973-2241. Services are available 24 hours per day, seven days a week. Crisis calls are directed to a Qualified Mental Health Professional who will consult, refer, or schedule an assessment for needed follow-up services.

The mission of the Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center is to provide, advocate, and coordinate quality mental health care, services, and programs for people in its service area. Our vision is to improve the quality of life in southeast Kansas. We offer services and programs in the following counties: Allen, Anderson, Bourbon, Linn, Neosho, and Woodson. Our core services include outpatient psychiatry, therapy, consultation, chemical abuse counseling, case management, educational and skill-building groups, specialty training, physical healthcare coordination, and 24/7 crisis intervention services. For more information, visit