Loving, passionate, fun, caring, free spirited
Katie was a loving mother, daughter, sister and friend. Her personality was “as big as the sky,” her mom, Angelia said. ‘She had the biggest, darkest eyes; you could get lost in them and see straight into her soul. But she also carried the pain of the world in those eyes and longed for peace.”
Katie struggled with bipolar disorder and dysthymic depression throughout her life that affected her behavior and her progress in school. Though her illness sometimes made her difficult Katie was also loud and fun; people loved her. She had a passion for people with special needs and loved animals. She volunteered at a wildlife sanctuary helping to rehabilitate sick and injured animals. Katie’s mom said: “She always wanted to fix broken things, I think she felt broken herself.”
The beach was Katie’s happy place and she spent endless time there with her sisters, Leslie and Amy. She also loved modeling and felt comfortable, confident and able to express her emotions in front of the camera, which eased her insecurities. “The little girl that loved the beach, animals and people–that was who Katie really was, I always told her she should have been a mermaid.” Angelia said. Katie’s sister, Leslie, is pregnant and plans to name her daughter after Katie.
At 13 Katie had two surgeries to address her scoliosis. She was prescribed opiates for the pain, which started her addiction journey. Over time, she quit taking prescribed meds and began self-medicating with opioids. By 14, Katie was in several behavioral centers and rehabs, but they were not equipped to help with both her mental health and addiction issues; the system failed her.
When Katie was 17, she gave birth to Landen, the love of her life. “The time she was pregnant, and the first four months of Landen’s life, were her happiest times,” her mom said. But soon things unraveled and Katie went back to seeking drugs. She passed away when Landen was three.
Katie often wrote about how much her son meant to her and her dreams for their future together. She wanted to continue modeling, successfully manage her mental health and make a life for her and Landen who is now being raised by family members.
Angelia has learned a lot about addiction and is now working to bring awareness to mental health and substance use issues. She said that addiction sucked the life out of Katie and she became someone she didn’t recognize. “I will never get over the pain of losing her,” Angelia said, ‘but I have met so many amazing people and have learned I am not alone on this journey. “
Katie’s mother, Angelia Thomas, provided the information for this narrative.
December 9, 1994-August 17, 2016
Age 21- Lived with addiction 3 years