The definition of recovery is “a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.” However, for some, recovery isn’t a short-term process or something that gets completed, but more so a lifelong journey due to a mental illness or substance use disorder. Amber Poole’s recovery is one that has had its ups and downs, but she continues to press forward.

As a teenager, Amber began to experience symptoms of depressions. She struggled with bulimia, and developed deep depression. She began to have obsessive thoughts – she wasn’t sure how to get help and was too scared to do so.

“I began to have really horrible thoughts, became rebellious and started acting out,” she said. “I got in trouble for shoplifting, did things at school [graffiti, etc.] and was constantly in trouble.”

When she was 26 years old, Amber began to have psychotic features and was officially diagnosed with depression. She mostly dealt with delusions of persecution, and was afraid of fire and being hurt by others – among other symptoms.

“It was painful and horrific,” Amber said. “I just wanted it to go away, and was looking for a solution to make it happen.”

Because of these symptoms, she was forced to drop out of school. After visiting a mental health facility – which is now SMA Healthcare – she was ultimately prescribed Abilify, which helped with her psychotic features.

However, she found herself in a relationship that caused some of these symptoms to re-emerge. After becoming pregnant, she came off her medication. Unfortunately, her episodes became worse due to the unhealthy relationship – he would often instigate them and make it worse for her.

After the birth of her child, Amber went back to SMA Healthcare. The staff, specifically Hazel, helped her to understand her schizoaffective diagnosis and helped guide her through the process with DCF to get reunited with her child. SMA Healthcare was there for her in every aspect, and provided her the support, care, and treatment she needed to get back on her feet.

“I was frustrated and disappointed with everything I was going through,” Amber said. “But, SMA was there to help me. I did everything I needed to do and I was able to get my child back – that was such a huge motivation for me.”

Amber continues to progress in her recovery journey. She has since been reunified with her child, who is now five years old. Also, she is back in school, studying Human Services as Florida State College. She even made the President’s List and is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor’s Society.

Furthermore, she has been able to maintain steady employment for the last year-and-a-half with SMA Healthcare as a Peer Recovery Specialist. She works closely with clients who are searching for answers, just like she was just a few years earlier.

“I am able to interact with clients who are in recovery/new to it and provide support,” Amber said. “They have somebody to walk besides them who has been through it. I am not trying to change them, but simply providing support.”

Looking back at her recovery journey is something Amber finds important. For her, as cliché as it sounds, it was if she wasn’t able to learn from her past, she was going to make those same mistakes again.

“I think back to when people called me crazy and piled on my illness,” Amber said. “Those thoughts and words still attack you in recovery; you still hear those voices about you, and that still affects you (even on medication or in recovery).”

However, Amber continues to look forward and at all she’s been able to accomplish along the way in her recovery journey. On her desk, she has a quote that says “hold on to hope.” For her, hope is the one thing that got her through her journey; hope is there, and nobody could tell her that that it didn’t exist.