Catherine, known as Catie to her loved ones, was born and raised in Washington State. Sharply intelligent, she formed a love of sports early on, particularly the game of ice hockey. A fearless competitor who continually pushed herself to improve her skills, she was known to be a team-first player, playing as a goalie for several years and then switching to a forward position. Catie dreamed of attending a D1 school, making an Olympic team someday, followed by a career somewhere in the medical field. Her drive was so evident no doubted she could do it.
As she progressed through her teens, that drive began to falter. Unbeknownst to her loved ones, dark thoughts began creeping into her mind, distracting her. A serious injury during a game resulted in surgery and the loss of a season. She pursued rehabilitation, but doubts plagued her and she struggled to regain confidence and motivation. Her academics suffered, as did her game. Anxiety became a problem, as did her ability to focus. She did engage in some mental counseling, but was not yet ready to unburden her heart and share the real cause of her angst. She quit counseling and assumed it was her own lack of discipline and maturity thwarting her.
No longer positioned for the college of her dreams, Catie opted to attend community college. She enjoyed her classes, and seemed to regain some of her former sense of direction. Reluctantly she set aside her hockey dreams, but was still intent on a college degree and career. She was still, however, struggling with impulse control and inner "demons" prompting her to outbursts of destructive behavior, a secret she continued to keep from her family, ashamed at her self-perceived failure to control it. She decided to join the military, believing the structured environment would help her gain more self discipline as well as earning money to pay for her education. She was attracted to the ideals of being part of a team, defending her nation and pushing herself mentally and physically to be all that she wanted to be. And so she became a member of the United States Air Force.
Catie did in fact push herself, as she always had, to be competitive and keep up with the demands of military life. She felt a sense of accomplishment, and relished the opportunity to be helping others while she pursued learning her new craft. Stationed in Georgia, she re-enrolled in college to continue her education. But underneath the hectic schedule, the demons lurked, the anxiety continued to grow unabated, and she once again was fighting an internal battle with unruly thoughts pushing her to act out. Eventually, it affected her military career adversely; help was given but again aimed in the wrong direction due to misdiagnosis of the true underlying cause. Problems persisted despite her attempts to control herself, and she was dismissed early from her contract.
Out of the Air Force, she returned to Washington to her welcoming-but-worried family. She finally recognized that she needed to pursue some kind of mental health counseling and treatment in earnest. Her "demons" had only grown stronger, her anxiety disabling, and her ability to function rationally was eroding quickly. Too quickly. A plan was made to pursue treatment, a therapist chosen, but an unexpected delay in her insurance enrollment proved costly; Catie suffered a psychotic episode in that interim and fled back to Georgia, gripped by paranoia. Once there, she slowly restabilized; however the newly acquired health insurance could not be used in her new location, she was still undiagnosed as to the real cause of her growing madness, and her ability to help herself--and to help others help her--was rapidly diminishing. A loving friend provided her a home, and attempted to be supportive, but once again there was a delay in obtaining viable insurance and Catie suffered repeated psychotic breakdowns during that time. She ended up involutarily more than once in a local psychiatric ward. Eventually, she was diagnosed with schizophenia, but having seemed to have stabilized was released and advised to seek treatment. Her friend had at last secured new health insurance for her, and Catie once again formed a plan to pursue care for her now-named condition, but struggled just to get through each day making it difficult to follow through. A short time later, wracked by anxiety and confusion, Catie gave in to the dark voices in her mind. She successfully commmitted suicide. She was only 22 years old.
Catie touched many lives in the short time she was alive. She was a fighter, who often excelled by sheer grit and perserverence. She helped many along the way--helping others was always one of her biggest motivations in doing what she did best. She loved a good cause.
In her honor, Catie's friends and family wish to help promote the funding and the research of mental health causes, treatments and early diagnosis, so that others might avoid the same suffering and loss of their bright light to darkness as we have ours.
In memory and tribute to Catherine Anne Etier March 2017
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