What can touch us more profoundly than the stories our loved ones share with us? In the case of Crystrial Murphy, Christina speaks of the mental health crisis that turned her younger sister’s life upside down, derailing the pursuit of her college education.
Christina and Crystrial are multi-racial/cultural. Born in Berkeley to an African/Native American mother, and African/Filipino father she self-identifies as “mixed-race/culture”. Their Native American heritage comes from their maternal grandmother. Rejected by classmates on all sides of their ethnic identities, they struggled with feelings of not belonging. Psychological abuse at home led Christina to run away and to be placed into psychiatric institutions and foster care at an early age. Neither sister learned their father’s native language although Crystrial later enrolled in classes to learn Tagalog at UC Berkeley.
Crystrial’s education from grade school to college placed her in advanced classes participating in programs reserved for promising students. Garnering scholarships while attending Berkeley High School she entered college focused on her goals. While in college Crystrial participated in international travel abroad to Brazil which was marred by being drugged and sexually assaulted by a participant from another abroad program. Due to shame the assault was never officially reported, and the abuser was never prosecuted. After returning home she felt shunned and ridiculed. This began a “domino effect” that released emotions suppressed for years. Memories of previous abuse, neglect, and assault resurfaced. During this period of her life her maternal grandmother passed away and a mental health emergency emerged. Crystrial was falling apart and she withdrew from college because of her debilitating depression. Four years later Crystrial was able to re-enroll in college at UC Berkeley and complete her studies. Crystrial graduated in 2009 with two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Ethnic Studies and Native American Studies.
Crystrial began working at Scotts Valley Tribal TANF in Concord, benefiting the community. Life was changing for the better and Crystrial gained more confidence and discipline. Unfortunately thirteen years later further unexpected sorrow and devastation would contribute to Crystrial’s mental breakdown. Crystrial experienced the death of her paternal grandmother, her homosexual brother to suicide and then her father. Crystrial lost her job and was dealing with custody issues and a shaky marriage ending in divorce, still pending. All these events left Crystrial in despair and years of overwhelming chaos and confusion which led to alcohol and substance use.
The Bay Area is well known for its substantial support in treating alcohol and substance abuse and providing mental health services. When Crystrial finally reached out for help she found services that met her needs. She realized this was a battle for her life and the well-being of her children. She began group therapy, attending meetings at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and returned to her Christian roots. She began praying, singing and dancing with a supportive group of local women practicing traditional Lakota healing ways connecting with nature and the Creator. Crystrial participated and sang prayer songs at the sweat lodge and other traditional ceremonies. She took the steps necessary to pull herself out of depression and into wholeness. Her hard work paid off. Through the support of community services, prayer, and indigineous cultural healing practices, Crystrial found her way through the haze of pain, anxiety, loss and depression clouded by alcohol and substance abuse.
During the recent pandemic Crystrial was able to continue the work around her mental health and recovery by attending online meetings.
Giving back is an important step on the road to recovery. Crystrial attributes her return to mental clarity and vitality to the support she received from UC Berkeley University Health Services; her sister, Christina; the Native American Health Center and many other community organizations. Crystrial is thriving and a wonderful example for her family and community. Currently, Crystrial is a single parent raising three multi-racial/cultural boys teaching them the coping skills she has learned, the power of education, and how to advocate for themselves while battling differences and self acceptance. She continues to attend mental health groups; therapy; AA/NA meetings as well as incorporates meditative and cultural practices for stress relief into her family’s regular routine. No longer ashamed of her past Crystrial reaches out to her sister Christina for guidance. Every day brings more success as Crystrial continues to embrace her recovery with renewed determination.
Christina Murphy is a proud big sister, a powerful mental health advocate and a thriving survivor. After her father’s death in 2019, Christina traveled to the Philippines where her young siblings from her father’s second marriage had relocated with their mother. She wanted them to know they were loved no matter the distance and to be proud of their Black heritage.
Diagnosed as bi-polar at an early age, Christina has proven naysayers wrong. She is proud of not becoming a “statistic” and models what mentally healthy looks like. Her training includes strategies taught by Peers Envisioning and Engaging in Recovery Services (PEERS) in Oakland, which provides training using the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), a method taught around the world.
Christina has received mental health services from Wendy Lucero, LMFT since she was twelve years old and from Evelyn Polk, LMFT since she was sixteen years old. These two therapists/mentors continue to guide, encourage and empower Christina to this day.
Christina’s achievements include a political run for election to the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board, three years of service on the Berkeley Police Review Commission, and co-founder of “Friends of Adeline”. After single-handedly finding thirty-eight jobs for people who had never been employed, it was at the Berkeley Drop-in Center that she was promoted from “volunteer” to Housing Specialist by Director Emmett Hudson. She became known as the Alameda County guru for housing.
Christina serves on the Steering and Review Commission of the Pool of Consumer Champions (POCC), and is an employee with La Familia Counseling Services, working at Sally’s Place-Peer Respite Home in Hayward, “…the first and only of its kind in Alameda County”.
A mover and a shaker, Christina believes that wellness recovery is real and possible and that, “we are who we serve” (POCC).
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