Community Highlights: Meet Cristi Bundukamara of Mentally Strong Academy

Community Highlights: Meet Cristi Bundukamara of Mentally Strong Academy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cristi Bundukamara.

Hi Cristi, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today.
My name is Dr. Cristi Bundukamara, many call me Dr. B. I am a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP-BC), a Doctor of Healthcare Education (Ed.D), a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, and a friend. I have been through unimaginable trials in my life and have experienced many feelings as a result; depression, anxiety, anger, and overwhelming stress.

Many people say that I am the strongest person they know. Although I appreciate the encouraging words, what I want others to understand is that I was not born this way. I have learned how to find strength, and I continually CHOOSE to find that strength every day. I am the mother of seven amazing children. Although I’ve been blessed with a beautiful family, my story turned abruptly from a fairy tale to a tragedy.

It all began when I met the love of my life and watched with delight as our family grew in the form of 2 biological and 5 adopted children. But the bliss was short-lived as tragedy after tragedy began to strike our family. We had been blessed with two beautiful biological children. When they were still little, my husband, who was a school teacher, had an older student whose mother was an addict and had kicked her out of the house. We happily brought her into our home.

A few months later, we were told of a young man from our church who was about to go into the foster care system. We had watched him grow up in the church and decided to bring him into our home as well. We felt blessed to be able to adopt them both and make them official family members. Given how happy we were, and how smoothly and successfully the adoption process had gone with the first two, we decided to register with the foster-to-adopt program.

Shortly after registering for the foster-adopt program, we were introduced to a three-child sibling group (two girls and one boy) who had endured significant trauma. We brought them into our home and started the adoption process. One year after adopting the three siblings, Johnny died in a drowning accident on a family trip. This was the start of the cascade of tragedy we were to endure.

After Johnny’s death, the two younger adopted girls began to act up showing their PTSD, reactive attachment disorder, and other mental health issues. While we were trying to manage their behavior, our son Reggie started exhibiting symptoms of health issues. In December of 2006, he had his first grand mal seizure.

After searching for answers, we were eventually given a diagnosis for Reggie of a rare genetic progressive brain disorder called DRPLA. Testing showed that not only did Reggie have the disease, but so did my husband and daughter. For years we sought treatments and hoped for a cure as Reggie, Miah, and my husband regressed.

While seeking therapies, we were still trying to manage the now out-of-control behavior of the teenage girls. Sadly, in October 2016, Reggie passed away. I tried to figure out how to move forward knowing that Miah and my husband were still struggling with DRPLA. After losing Reggie I realized that, without a miracle, it was highly unlikely that they would survive this disease.

To cope and process the chaos and grief over the years after Johnny died, I developed an approach to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that is now called the Mentally STRONG Method. This method helped me identify my thoughts and feelings, organize them, and then helped me work on positive choices during a time that would have otherwise been debilitating.

I knew that I had to share it with others. I decided that if I’m capable of making this world a better place in honor of Reggie, Johnny, and my other children, then I needed to do it. This was when I started my company, Mentally STRONG, a small outpatient mental health clinic. I was the only provider and had a staff of one.

I decided I would teach people the Method to clients in their counseling and medication management sessions. I watched the practice grow quickly given the great need for mental health treatment in our community as well as the rest of the country. While there have been many struggles, frustrations, and setbacks in running my own company, the clinic has grown to have multiple nurse practitioners and counselors. We now help over 100 people in the clinic per day.

I realized that my passion is in helping others learn the Mentally STRONG Method after seeing how many people have been helped by it in the clinic. I created another company called the Mentally STRONG Academy which is dedicated to educating and training as many people as possible in the Mentally STRONG Method. Our mission is to empower all humanity to embrace the journey of mental strength.

Over the years, DRPLA had been slowly taking away Miah’s abilities leading to a point where she couldn’t be left alone at all. I went into Miah’s room on the morning of December 14, 2021, to wake her up only to find that she had passed in her sleep in the middle of the night. While she had been regressing, she wasn’t nearly as severe as Reggie was when he passed.

The shock and pain of Miah’s passing were intense. I thought I had another 5-10 years with her. While I am still grieving the loss I Miah, I am determined to use my pain and grief to help others which is why I have chosen to grieve publicly. When I feel depressed, I use the elements of the Mentally STRONG Method to think, organize and choose how to process those feelings and find joy.

Honestly, sometimes the choice is just to be sad, cry and not be productive that day, and that’s ok. It’s a time-limited choice that I call Controlled Grief. Sometimes I choose to read testimonies about how my life and perseverance have helped others. In those instances, I am choosing to accept my purpose, turning my pain into strength as part of my healing.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Growing the Mentally STRONG Academy to have a positive impact on improving the lives of many individuals as possible through the Mentally STRONG Method.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Educating and teaching individuals to become resilient and mentally strong through the Mentally STRONG Method.

Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success?
Teaching people how to be resilient and mentally STRONG.

Article by VoyageDenver

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