I was originally in a nursing home for more than 6 years, before I moved back into the community. As soon as I got to Thresholds, there was a huge difference. The staff was welcoming and community-oriented, but I was still struggling with self-esteem issues. Until I got involved with the self-esteem group and a theater project, I didn’t have confidence. Now I love myself for the first time in my life. I’m involved in my community now – community theater, and a Crisis Intervention Training Program with the Chicago police. I danced at the Harris Theater with a group.
I didn’t realize it then, but I’d been sick for a long time. It got worse and worse, and I attempted suicide on more than one occasion. I kept having seizures and other issues. I transferred to a nursing home, and was first diagnosed in 2000 with bipolar and schizoaffective disorder. The last time I was hospitalized was 2000. After about six years, I knew it wasn’t working anymore to live in the nursing home. It was more of a hindrance. It was time to be on my own.
The big difference is that with Thresholds, I was encouraged to do things on my own and step out of my comfort zone. I wasn’t being held back anymore. The case managers believed that I could do it. Living out in the community has helped me to feel normal. I’m not segregated. People don’t know I have a mental illness unless I mention it. It’s what helped me improve my self-esteem. I live in my own apartment, and have been able to build a budget that I’ve been able to keep. I can come and go as I please. Now I have dignity – I have my own place.
You have to get to a place where you can get out, get involved. That’s the key – face your fears, face your anxieties. I used to have anxiety about taking the El. One day I did it because the weather was lousy, and I haven’t looked back. Now I take it all over the city.
The most important part of my recovery? Self-esteem. Now I am in control of my emotions and happiness, and I can choose to feel good. I still have off days, but they don’t last as long as they used to. I can take a personal inventory, and turn that around.
I think there needs to be more awareness about mental illness. Hey look, I was diagnosed with a serious mental illness. Now I’m part of the community, just like everyone else. You can recover. We can recover. If you look at someone, you can’t see it – it’s a hidden illness. People with mental illness are everywhere. What I get irritated with is when people equate mental illness with low intelligence. It doesn’t mean I’m stupid! I use my experiences as I know where I’ve been, and I don’t want to go back there, so I keep working at my recovery. I stay involved in my community. Being in the community works. Treatment works.
I’m extremely glad I came to Thresholds. I’ve done more in two years at Thresholds than in the 8 years before. I recommend it to anyone. Thresholds is: recovery, community, caring.
That’s the main thing – they nurture your journey. Recovery is a journey. Becoming a part of Thresholds is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. They’ve helped me get where I am right now. They’re not there for the paycheck, they’re there for the people.
One of my goals is to achieve my dreams of acting or doing comedy. One of my goals is to be a motivator, and to help people get where I’m at. When I share my story, I know that it could help someone else. I want to make a difference.