About Me

Meet Kristi

Kristi Ferrise was born and raised in the bay area of Northern California. She has lived in Colorado, Virginia, New York and now Marathon, FL.

Kristi had a successful corporate career where she worked for a large private pension company in Denver, Colorado. In 2001, she relocated to Marathon, FL where she worked at the Dolphin Research Center.

Kristi retired from teaching in January 2023.  She taught Kindergarten for 15 years and then Middle School and High School Art for 5 years in Florida.

She loves the warmth, the sun, boating, snorkeling, fishing, scuba diving, and lobstering. Kristi has one cat and one dog.

Healing Through Radical Self-Compassion

Kristi Mitcham-Ferrise

Have you ever found yourself alone and crying because of an overwhelming fear and sadness that takes over? That’s my story. The crazy thing about this is most people who know me would think that I have it all together and am a genuinely happy person. My hope is that you’ll find something in my story that you can relate to and know that you can get through these moments of despair.  Not just get through them, but heal them. 


I appeared to be happy most of my life.  No one knew the fear and sadness inside. Throughout my life, I learned to hide and act like everything was okay.  I truly cared about others and encouraged them to get through hard times.  Re-directing attention from me to others allowed me to avoid my fear and sadness that I experienced when I was alone.  Anything that prevented me from healing was a choice. This is a form of hiding, and I started hiding at a very young age.  Being the 5th child, and the baby, I got a lot of attention. My world changed when my little brother was born three years after me.  I remember when my Mom brought my little brother home from the hospital. I noticed that he received all of the attention.  I noticed how I felt like I had been replaced, so I learned to play by myself.  I learned to be independent.  

As an adult, I didn’t understand why these dark feelings sometimes crept in.  My life didn’t seem so bad.  I had a successful career, good friends and love interests.  However, when I was alone, I felt so sad and would just cry. I hid this from my parents, my friends, my lovers, even myself. Every traumatic experience I had either taught me a new skill of how to hide better, or how to react…which was not always a good thing. I let each traumatic experience build upon negative thoughts and confirm to myself that I could easily be cast aside.  I became very familiar with this feeling of total despair when I was alone.  I believed that I did not matter.  I believed that I did not deserve happiness because it would be taken away from me.  So, I preferred to heal others instead of myself.   

I was molested when I was 11 years old by a distant family member. My adolescent brain couldn’t process the confusion and questions surrounding my trauma. I kept asking him to stop tickling me because I wanted attention, but his mind and intentions were in a place my innocent mind could not understand.  When it happened, he said he wasn’t tickling me.  I can’t disrespect him.  Why is this happening?  Maybe he has the right to do this to me?  I have to get away.  I’ll tell him that my sister needs me.  I feel dirty.  Maybe I can take a shower and erase everything that happened.  Could I be pregnant?  Let me scrub the sensations away.  My Mom wants to know why I’m showering in the middle of the day.  I’ll lie to her and tell her I just wanted to. It worked!  I can never tell anyone.  They won’t believe me. I must have done something to make him want to do this to me.  I don’t know what I did.  I don’t like this. Why me?  I have to get away.  I did something wrong.  This is my fault.  I want to hide.  I don’t ever want to see him again. What will I do when he comes back?  I had no way of knowing how to deal with these thoughts. Resources for sexual assault didn’t exist then like they do now. So, years of listening to these thoughts made me feel that I could be easily cast aside. I felt like I did not matter. I believed that I couldn’t tell my secret.

When I was 16 years old, we moved from California to Colorado. For a teenager, moving can be a traumatic event.  I left my friends behind. My life as I knew it changed. I did not have any control over this move.  It once again confirmed my feeling that I didn’t matter.  I was very depressed and hid this from my parents.  In fact, one day, my Mom raised concerns about my little brother because he was acting out and wasn’t fitting in with his new school and friends. When she asked me to keep an eye out for him, I remember thinking that I didn’t matter because she didn’t know that I was struggling as well. I appeared to be fine, but every night, I would write a letter to no one  and explain why I did not want to be here anymore, how I didn’t matter, and cry myself to sleep. I chose to not say anything to my parents. I thought that my brother mattered more than me, so I stayed silent.  I learned to hide my emotions and make it appear like everything was fine. At this point in life, it was normal for me to be concerned for others more than myself.

Nine years after the molestation, the first person I told was my best friend from college.  I told her on our annual drive to Myrtle Beach.  She heard me and didn’t judge. She just listened.  I felt safe enough with her to give her details.  She loved me so much and she was angry at the person that did this to me.  She cared about me.  This was the first time that I completely opened up to someone.  She accepted me, even though I had been ashamed of what happened to me. She helped me feel safe. She let me talk it all out.  My friend believed me and it was a relief.  I began to go to counseling.

With my newfound courage that I received from telling my friend and the counseling, I went on to tell my five siblings about the molestation. My brothers didn’t have much to say. Now, I can think of a million reasons why. Back then we didn’t talk about anything like this.  You see, I was raised in a very protective religious environment.  It was normal to hide anything bad because I saw that people would judge and I certainly didn’t want to be judged or accused of anything. My one sister accused me of lying.  My other sister, whom I am closest to, cried with me and began to question parts of her childhood that she blocked out.  My sister-in-law was angry that I didn’t tell them sooner because her children had been alone with this man. I felt like each time I told someone, the attention immediately went away from me and back to how it affected them. I still felt like I didn’t matter even though I was finally speaking my truth. In my late twenties, I did write my parents a six page letter explaining why throughout my life I had never liked male doctors, and why I always appeared to be a loner. I didn’t tell them who molested me, but I did tell them that it happened.  I asked for a few weeks to process my emotions of letting my secret out.  Several weeks after I gave them the letter, we met for breakfast and my parents let me know that they loved me and the letter gave them some answers as to why I made the decisions that I did in my life.  

“I can’t imagine who would have done this to you,” my mom said, heartbroken and angry. She asked me who molested me and I told her that she didn’t want to know; I refused to tell her.  We never spoke about it again. I was okay with this because I didn’t want to hurt anyone or bring up any emotions that could have caused enormous trauma. I did feel like I wasn’t judged and it felt good to tell my parents. I felt accepted. However, even though I finally told people, I wasn’t healed.  So I continued with the counseling.

In my twenties, I was in a small group counseling session with other people that had been molested.  I remember this like it was yesterday.  One girl in our group told me that I didn’t belong there because my molestation was not as violent as hers.  I immediately felt ashamed, and wanted to go back into hiding.  One side of me felt ashamed that my trauma wasn’t “as bad” as hers. Another part of me felt guilty that I was making a big deal about my trauma.  Years of counseling afterwards still did not heal my shame and guilt.  Talking about it with my counselors just caused me to relive the trauma.  I did not heal the negative thoughts that I listened to consistently for the nine years of hiding my secret. I still believed that I could be easily cast aside.

In my thirties, I had an amazing job working for a large private pension company.  I was very successful. My managers recognized my skill and effort.  I went on to become a Team Leader and opened up a regional office in Denver.  Eventually, our department grew and we needed to hire another Team Leader. Things were great, until one day, my co-worker received recognition for something that I thought was a team effort.  Now I am sure she deserved this recognition, but it was how I processed this event that caused me to revert back to my shame and guilt.  I will never forget the shock on my team’s face when she received this award instead of me.  I went to the bathroom and cried.  In my mind, I was cast aside and didn’t deserve the recognition.  I was triggered and this event brought back the shame and guilt from when I was younger.  It bothered me enough to leave my career to follow a dream career instead.  Once again, I ran and hid from my pain, and decided to throw action at the problem instead of fixing the root cause of my pain. 

I am now in my early fifties.  I didn’t just wake up and decide that I needed help one day.  It took another traumatic experience to force me to work on my healing.  I met my husband in 2004.  Our life together was amazing.  Our love for the water, boating, fishing and lobstering brought us together even more. Being on the boat with him was my happy place.  We were present with each other when we were together.  I had never experienced such love with a man. He protected me and that made me feel safe.  I now realize that I pushed away from healing and avoided dealing with my fears and sadness because I thought that I didn’t need to anymore.  We had each other. He accepted me, even though he didn’t know that I had a deep wound that needed to be healed. I will admit that when he went fishing with his friends, I would stay at home and just cry.  I would let the shame and guilt creep in and take over.  I was still hiding even though my life seemed amazing.  It was amazing.  However, when I was alone I was reliving my trauma as though it just happened. When my husband came home, I would wipe my tears and my wonderful life would resume.  My husband passed away in August 2017 after a 20-month battle fighting cancer.  My world was frozen. My safety was taken away and I was vulnerable again.  This feeling was all too familiar and I couldn’t take it anymore.  I was tired of this repeated pattern and knew that I needed help, but I felt defeated. I still had my shame and guilt. I still had my fear and sadness.  I was not healed.  

Today, I am choosing to heal.  I am giving myself the compassion that I longed for my entire life.  I no longer cry when I am alone.  I have been given the tools to use to work through my thought process, which has allowed me to heal the parts of me that were still in pain.  I have learned to change my thoughts about my experiences.  For example, the day I was molested, my mom was entertaining guests and had five other children to take care of.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t important, she just had a lot of other responsibilities to deal with and what happened to me went unnoticed by no fault of her own.  When our family moved to Colorado, I chose to not say anything about how difficult it was for me.  I have now forgiven myself for thinking that I had to deal with this alone.  I never let them know that I was suffering too, so how could they help if they didn’t know?  When I wrote the letter to my parents telling them everything about my life, I am sure that they were shocked.  But, they did give me my space and did talk with me when I was ready. About counseling, I have learned that there are different types of trauma, but how we think and feel about our trauma can have a major impact on how we live.  For that co-worker that stole my thunder… she did not steal my thunder.  If anything, I am proud of her and know that I contributed to her success.  We were quite the team.  I know that I would have been rewarded when the time came, and that outlook comes from the work I have done and continue to do with Allyson.

I am so proud of how far I’ve come.  I don’t think I’m crazy anymore.  I am pretty powerful.  My thoughts can knock me down, or build me up.  I choose to build myself up and it feels amazing.  You too can heal.

If we discount our own pain, or punish ourselves for feeling lost, scared or alone, then we are choosing to not heal. We are not seeing our choices.  We are judging ourselves and not giving ourselves the compassion that we wish we had when we were younger.  We are not victims any longer.  I don’t want you to hear my story and say that your own suffering is less significant or more traumatic.  I want you to believe that if I can do it, then so can you. Instead of asking, “Why me?” start to ask, “What now?”

Self Help:

I learned to acknowledge the feelings associated with what was going on through the method of thought models. Allyson is a big proponent of this method in her coaching. Once I acknowledge the feelings, I can work through my reaction and change the result. I started off small, got in the habit of doing this almost daily, and eventually saw the positive result.  Cognitive therapy has helped me to understand how to change my thoughts about a circumstance so that the end result is more positive. For example, here was my thought process about my molestation:

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When you are finished, ask yourself some follow-up questions, and begin to plan a reasonable course of action based on how you truly FEEL and not what you think is the “right” decision or the one that will win approval from others.

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