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My healing journey: UNITY Alaskan Native youth

Healing Indigenous Lives Youth Submission: Korbin Storms, Native Village of Unalakleet, Alaska

I would tell Native Youth that struggle to see themselves as leaders that they have resiliency in their DNA, that sometimes it takes someone who has been low and lost before to connect to others that are feeling that way, that they have a unique perspective and so much potential to enact change and that the best leaders are those that give hope to others. The challenge I am most proud of overcoming in my lifetime is learning that although I have a relationship with mental illness it is not define who I am. I am so much more than my depression. That, perhaps most importantly, I could be a good mother despite my illness.

If you are putting yourself into a leadership role that focuses on healing oneself, you must show character and be transparent.  #NativeYouthVoices

My Healing Journey: I grew up as the middle child of eight to a single mother after my father’s abandonment at the age of seven. Approximately a year after, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Being so young at the time, I do not remember exactly when my mom began to use alcohol to drown her feelings of abandonment and loss, but her battle with drinking readily became woven into the reality of our family.

Due to the drinking, parental duties for my three younger siblings -and often times my mother- fell onto the shoulders of my older siblings. Thus, much of the large responsibility of caring for my grandmother fell onto me. This was very frustrating as a child because I was forced to witness two pillars of matriarchal strength crumble in front of my eyes because of diseases of the mind.
I created a facade that everything was okay but, deep down I was bitter and lost and angry. I felt responsible for everything and began to hate myself.

My craving for control coupled with self-loathing introduced me to an eating disorder during young adolescence. I stopped eating and loss a lot of weight, two things that my oldest sister noticed when she came home from boarding school. Strict intervention quickly pursued and plates for me were made at each meal and I was not excused until they were eaten.

My weight gain and loss of control prompted me to express my self-loathing in the form of cutting onto my thighs, hips, and wrists. This continued on and off for about five years.
During, my freshman year in high school my cutting was noticed by my roommate and I began counseling because of her concerns. I was diagnosed with depression for the first time.

My struggle with depression is constant and on going. I have contemplated suicide twice. The last time, was when I discovered I was pregnant. I was afraid of not being able to properly care for her and felt like adoption was my only real choice. I felt so weak and helpless and believed that I would not be able to live with myself knowing that I gave her up. I was patiently waiting to deliver to end my life. in the meantime, I began working and taking care of myself to avoid suspicion.

Around two thirds of the way into my pregnancy something clicked. It is up to me to create the life that I want. It was up to me to decide to change myself so that I was the best option for my daughter’s future. It is up to me to heal my wounds for myself and for those that could not heal themselves. #IWillLive

My Superpower: I believe that my most valuable quality is that I am a mother. I believe that it is my responsibility to help make this world a better one for my daughter and to raise her to be strong. Those two passions apply throughout my life into everything that I do. An important learning experience for me that was outside of the classroom has been being a mom. I learn something new everyday as my daughter grows and evolves into herself. Since she was born I aim to be more conscious of what I do, what I say and how I think.

Community: As long as I am able to move forwards and grow within my community I see myself residing in Unalakleet. The top three issues of concern for those impacted by the juvenile justice system in my community are: substance abuse, lack of opportunity and a disconnect of culture due to colonization. I believe that re-opening our community library would create a safe space for youth to learn and dream. Currently, I am the Native Connections Coordinator underneath a SAMHSA grant for the Native Village of Unalakleet and one of largest issues I come across is finding a space to do things. If Unalakleet were to make the old library building into a safe central space welcoming to the public there could be so much change. Simply having a comfortable safe space to read or do homework would show our youth that they are cared for and that we are invested in their future. It is my dream to see the library become a head-start/ daycare program geared towards language rehabilitation, traditional knowledge, and connecting youth with elders. Additionally, a library can be a safe meeting place for groups like AA or a native dance group.

Cultural Prevention: I believe that cultural prevention could help Native youth keep out of trouble because it is holistic. Traditionally when someone acts in a troublesome way they are not labeled as someone who is troublesome but recognized as someone who is hurt and needs help. I believe that with a culturally holistic approach we could erase the stigma of being vulnerable and allow some deep inter-generational healing.
If you have thoughts of suicide, know that Help is available
Speak with a counselor today

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Hours: Available 24 hours. Languages: English, Spanish.

Learn about suicide, how you can help prevent it, and resources for those affected, from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.