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Embracing Authenticity: Theo’s Journey of Self-Discovery

Lidia Harding
School-based Success Stories
YES school-based client Theo's recovery story

Theo’s story is one of resilience, self-discovery, and the transformative power of acceptance. Theo’s journey with YES started through school-based therapy in high school two years ago when he returned to in-person learning after the pandemic. At that time, Theo was grappling with social isolation, anxiety, and depression. Recognizing his struggles, he visited the YES Behavioral Health Support Specialist within his school, Crysta, and through building trust and creating a therapeutic space, Theo began confronting different aspects of himself and his identity.

Understanding Identity

Theo identifies as transgender and neurodiverse.

“For me, understanding my identity has been a lot of stepping stones,” he shared. “I have often thought, ‘Alright, I’m done with having breakthroughs.’ As beneficial as they have been for me, it’s the type of thing that often turns your life upside-down.”

In the supportive environment fostered by his therapist, Chrysta, Theo was able to explore his true self. This exploration led to numerous breakthroughs, which, although validating, initially made him feel less normal.

“I wasn’t very confident in myself or thought I deserved much, so believing that I need certain accommodations, different validation, and specific support didn’t come naturally,” he admitted.

Struggles at Home

Theo’s journey was further complicated by a lack of understanding and validation at home. His mother’s parenting techniques, effective for his three older siblings, failed to meet his unique needs.

“My mom never saw mental illnesses or disorders to be an explanation for me,” Theo explained. “As a child, she treated me as if I was a fully grown adult who had the maturity, emotional intelligence, and decision-making skills that I was never taught.”

Despite these challenges, Theo’s time in therapy was transformative. He discovered he was autistic, which was a pivotal realization. When he began to feel seen, he truly understood that he wasn’t just somehow broken. This understanding helped him recognize the concept of “masking,” a common behavior among autistic individuals to blend in with neurotypical peers, which is notoriously draining.

Finding School-Based Support

The support Theo found through free school-based services was especially beneficial, as he wouldn’t have been able to access services otherwise. His relationship with Chrysta was a significant turning point. Unlike his previous therapists, Chrysta provided a warm, validating presence in a location he was already at. He likened it to sitting down with a friend or mentor during his school day. Throughout the years, Chrysta continued to help him understand the harmful dynamics of his upbringing and encouraged him to separate his emotions from his mother’s treatment.

A Profound Loss

A profound loss marked Theo’s journey when his best friend and former coworker died in an accident. She was one of the first people to truly see Theo for who he was. Crysta helped Tep see that her acceptance and friendship were instrumental in Theo’s journey toward self-compassion. Since then, he has made a vow only to allow relationships in his life that inspire love, growth, and mutual respect.

Advocacy and Authenticity

Theo’s advocacy for social justice, particularly for LGBTQIA+ and neurodiverse youth, is a testament to his growth and resilience. Through presentations and writings, he shares his experiences and insights, highlighting the importance of providing safe and affirming spaces for self-exploration.

“Through it all, I have come to understand that self-discovery and acceptance are ongoing processes,” Theo reflected. “While the journey may be challenging, every step forward brings new growth and discoveries about yourself.”

Today, Theo lives as his authentic self, advocating for others and exemplifying the healing power of acceptance and support. His story is a powerful reminder of the impact that understanding, validation, and a safe space can have on a young person’s life.

Theo was a client speaker at the 2024 Invest in Youth Breakfast. You may click below to listen to Theo tell her story from the event.


Recovery stories like Theo’s are made possible through the generosity of many YES donors. Supporters provide ALL children, youth, and families in East King County with a chance of recovery. You, too, can be a lifeline in a young person’s life today by making a gift to provide families with hope for a brighter tomorrow! Whether you donate $5 or $500, every gift will make a difference in the life of a child or youth seeking hope and recovery.

Thanks to donations like yours, no youth is turned away because they can’t afford to pay for services.

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