stories are a testament to the resiliency of individual's recovering
or recovered from mental illnesses. The sharing of experiences offers
opportunities for reflection, understanding, and growth. Additional
stories will be added in coming weeks.
He's Too Happy
“There has to be something wrong with him, he’s too
happy.” These words resonate inside me to this day. They set
the foundation for my relationship with my mother, the woman who
spoke them, for the rest of my life.
I can understand why my mother felt the need to protect me from
myself. As a child, I had “anger problems.” When I was
eleven years old, I was hospitalized for them at Western Psychiatric
Institute and Clinic (WPIC). Soon after, my sister made allegations
of abuse against her dad, my adoptive dad, and he was removed from
the home. A year later, I was diagnosed with diabetes after almost
dying, and two months later, I was removed from the home, also for
alleged abuse of my sister.
I spent six months in shelter and 19 months in a residential treatment
facility for young offenders. Over and over, I insisted that I did
not abuse my sister (who was four when the allegations were first
made). Finally, when she was older and able to communicate better,
she was able to support my claim in court, which led to nine months
in foster care, and finally I was sent home at 16. When I got home,
though I had changed, the home had not. It’s one of the biggest
problems with our child-serving systems. The Office of Children
Youth and Families believes that the natural family is the best
place for a child, but the efforts to help the natural family become
a healthy one are simply not supported, and so I didn’t stay
there for long.
I moved in with my grandmother, who took care of me and let me
do what I wanted. She cooked, cleaned, did laundry…everything.
By this point, I had had diabetes long enough to think that because
it was unfair that I had it, I shouldn’t have to take care
of it, and my grandmother didn’t supervise my self-monitoring.
My apathy towards my care was increasing and contributed to the
days just prior to my mother’s heart-wrenching statement.
Grandma had accidentally put my insulin through the laundry, and
it stopped working. I found myself back in the emergency room for
my diabetes. Testing revealed that my Hemoglobin A1C, a test that
shows how blood sugar levels are controlled over a long period,
was 13 (double what it should have been). It was obvious to everyone
that I was trying to kill myself. I insisted I wasn’t, but
the evidence was contrary.
After three days on an involuntary commitment, the doctors agreed
with me. They said I was a good supporter for the other kids on
the unit, and that I was happy, not suicidal, and I was simply “apathetic”
about my diabetes care. That’s when she said it. That’s
when I found out that my mother’s opinion of happiness is
that it isn’t normal. I realized that my mother was probably
not the best person to be in control of my mental health decisions.
So who, then, should be? ME.
I spent the next 30 days thinking about how I was responsible for
my situation, rather than blaming my mother. If I had been taking
care of my diabetes, the blood test wouldn’t have supported
my mother’s claim that I was trying to kill myself. If I had
been checking my sugar, I would have noticed it elevating before
it had become dangerous. If I had been doing my own laundry instead
of letting Grandma take care of it, my insulin wouldn’t have
gotten washed. These were all things that I had the power to change.
I spent those 30 days in the hospital by choice. I chose to get
my life together. I chose to start caring for my diabetes. I chose
not to let anyone else choose for me because I realized that choosing
not to choose is a choice. I learned that even though my problems
may not all be fair and they may not all be my fault, that doesn’t
change the fact that solving them is my responsibility.
When I got out of the hospital, I petitioned for emancipation.
I started working on a career, and eventually got to the point of
working in mental health, inspired by the inpatient staff who told
me I would be good at this. They gave me hope to do something meaningful
with my life, and hope is the only cure for apathy.
Today, I co-chair a program called the Youth Outreach Union. We
are a support group of young adults who have been “there.”
We help each other by sharing our experiences, and our shoulders.
We advocate for the rights of other young adults in the mental health
system. We try to make sure that youth are heard when they speak
for themselves, and for youth in general.
Hope, personal responsibility, support, education and self-advocacy
were the fundamentals of life that I hadn’t learned as a child.
They are the foundation of our individuality, the foundation of
our humanity, the foundation for our recovery. They are things we
all need, mentally ill, or not.
My mom was right when she said there was something wrong with me,
but the happiness I had then is pale by comparison to the happiness
I have now. What was wrong with me was that I wasn’t choosing
to live, and now that I am, I know there is nothing wrong with happiness.
let me tell you about being on the streets and shelter/mission for
i had had enough of the turmoil of living at home.
i thought my father had gone on the warpath. i was thirty-one years
old. ever since graduating college, i had had a difficult time adjusting
to the world. i couldn't make a graceful transition into the workplace.
the situation at my parents house felt hostile. my older brother
was still abusive as he had been all my life. i had tried living
in a couple of rooming houses to no avail. i couldn't make it. so,
when an 'oppurtunity' came along, i hit the road in my little toyota
pick-up truck. i had driven through trenton as felt suspended in
time. the world seemed like a ball of confusion. i didn't know where
things were. it took me three days to wind-up in the vicinity of
reading, pennsylvania a distance of seventy miles as the crow flies.
at one point, i had been searched by state troopers who then fired
three warning shots into the air and told me to get going. whew!
my truck lost power at the a-plus sunoco station in
north reading. i stayed in it for about a day. i had a little money.
i found my way to the fairgrounds mall about one half a mile away.
a guard there gave me the address of the local mission. i went there
hoping all my problems would be solved. i would find shelter and
begin my life again. little did i know that twenty-two years later
my life would center in the reading area. i stayed in that mission
several times over the next three years. everytime, i get fed up
with the structure and my lack of ability to associate with my fellow
workers. so, i head out onto the streets. life seemed grand for
a little while until the cold or rainy weather set-in at night.
there were people in the night who scared me. there were dogs who
barked too much. there was too little available food.
at that time in the mid-eighties, the popular hang-out
was mc donald's at fifth and penn. i would go in and bum a cup from
someone and get a refill until the management became wise to this
trick. i'd sit with the mexicans ( i knew a little spanish from
high school ) and stumble through a conversation. some of the people
there were rude to me. they were very defensive. i bumbled my way
through all the season's. in the winter, i'd wear all types of clothing
to stay warm: men's or women's. i had to be creative to survive.
in the summer, i'd go to the water and swim with some of the other
poor people. they'd made a reclaiming pool at the bottom of a storm
drain. it held a lot of water. enough to swim in. i thought there
was little problem other than those who would take umbrage at my
behavoir. then, i'd have my doubts.
all this while, my father kept trying to get me services
in the mental health system. during my misadventure on the streets,
i'd wind up in wernersville state hospital two or three times. i'd
go there and eat, shower, sleep and read. well, my recoveries must
have be striking as those stays were only for a few weeks at a time.
but, i would slide back into the place half a year or so later.
near the end of my street escapades in nineteen eighy eight there
was a rumor going around that the shelter would be closing due to
lack of funds or some such thing. so, being the ever valiant dude
i walked from reading to harrisburg in two days peeing myself along
the way. i had eaten only once in lebanon at an impromptu shelter/house.
in harrisburg i sought a place to stay and heard of an agency to
who would put me up. well, the girl took one look at me and made
a phone call. we chatted a while. then, the police took me away
in shackles to the venerable harrisburg state hospital of which
you're very familiar. i'd stay there thirty-one days and was granted
once the benefits came through, i cashed in a nine
hundred dollar check and burned one for four thousand. i blew the
nine hundred trying to take care of myself. i eventually found an
apartment. whoppee! only, i still wasn't med compliant, trashed
the place, wound up in wernersville and became afraid. i had grown-up
as a laborer on my parents house. both of my parents had been in
the military. so, their idea of a good time was fixing up our three
story mini-mansion. well, we did it was a real cinderella story.
so, i had become concerned about losing my apartment. but, through
the grace of God i was given another chance. at that stay in wernersville,
i had had a showdown with the psychiatrist. she nearly put me on
forced injections. but, i convinced her of my intent to remain on
meds. once back in my quaint little abode, i became convinced about
taking the meds. through a twitching of a finger, i realized my
days on the streets would be over and i'd become stronger with meds.
so, i embarked on my own version of the doctor's regimen. this worked
to such a degree that i was capable enough to hold a job.
in the Children’s System My time in the mental health system started roughly 20
years ago. Over the years, I have seen many changes, some for the
better and some not. We all have had changes in our lives and my
changes have happened within the system. Now after reading this
you might think to yourself that this person has had a great professional
career. Well, you could be half-right, but guess what, I am a client.
Though I am only 22 years of age, my time has been well-spent learning,
growing and now teaching others. My experience in a way could be
considered professional—spending time with therapists who
are supposed to help you and then turning it around and teaching
them something. Who is the professional? I have been able to teach
myself things to be able to manage some of the flows in the system.
You tend to learn these things as you get better or stronger and
the system doesn’t.
My first hospital visit was the turning point that
changed my mind forever. With all due respect, the doctors may have
thought they were right, but the information they were given just
made my situation worse. I was seven years old with emotional stress
and anger. Is this possible? Yes, it is possible and my feelings
were real. They did not know how to help the situation properly.
Through all this, I found my first great experience at P ace School
(an approved private school). Founded in 1967 in Pittsburgh, P ace
has served as a groundbreaking school for children with emotional
and learning disorders. I spent eight years there learning about
my problems and finding out that I was not alone with my situation.
The key is not feeling as if you are the only one with a problem.
I found many great counselors at P ace who were there to guide me
with genuine feelings about my problems. To this day, I still look
for the genuine feeling of someone who really cares.
One of the key issues I still hear from clients I work with is,
where are all the other people with problems? Well, I always say
they are here and you just haven’t found each other yet. I
find that guiding people to places were they might find comfort
helps that feeling of being alone with a problem. It’s like
a person who has just come off an addiction and they need a group
to support them. The first step is caring about the problem and
I left Pace when I was 15 years old and went back to a public school
setting. For the first two years, I saw a lot of changes in the
school system and how they view people who may have a few more problems
than others. After a great teacher took me under her wing, I was
able to leave knowing I was not alone and could succeed, even though
I wasn’t sure what I was going to do in college.
I have been interested in art since I was a young child. I still
use my art to help me cope with issues. I figured rather than letting
my talent slip, I would go to college and apply my skills in a new
area. College can be pretty challenging if you are not completely
ready for it. I was not used to living away from home and I still
needed some guidance for my depression and anger. I had begun to
rethink what I was doing and if this was right for me. In a cry
for help, I felt I needed a drink. My loved ones didn’t know
and at the time I wasn’t ready to approach the idea that I
might have a problem. To change the situation I found an apartment
away from the dorms and people. It was a good move for the time
being but I still needed a boost. My depression came to the surface
and I was feeling overwhelmed. I had begun to drink again and was
looking to keep myself up in the process. I was off on the wrong
track and was fooling myself into believing everything would be
fine if I drink this or take that, but it wasn’t fine. I had
enough and I found myself ready to leave college when along came
my next big break.
The Community Outreach through Resource and Education (CORE) program
was introduced to me by my case management service at the time,
and it was the guidance I needed. The program was something new
and fresh and I was ready to try it. The focus this time was to
help me pull through college one-step at a time. This was the support
I needed. CORE also helped me to see that my family had been there
and the people I thought had turned their backs were there. I was
getting so used to stopping or trying to give up that I couldn’t
see what I needed to see.
So here I am three years later and still motivated to help others
more than ever and still keeping myself in check. I finished college
in 2005 and I have been clean and sober for 2½ years. Now
people might ask, is that it? This is never it and I hope to write
a book some day soon. I want to thank God, my family and the workers
who put time into my life to help me through every rough time and
every battle. In the end I am thankful it all happened because I
was able to learn and help along the way.
to “The Sky’s The Limit!”
Who decides what is “normal”? What is it based on? Does
anyone actually fit the description? I personally would call myself
your average “normal” person. Yet, I also am paranormal,
meaning I am beyond the scope of normal; I surpass it. Of course,
this is all based on what I think is normal.
Growing up it was “normal” to hear my
dad holler to my mom, “Toot, get me a beer.” Growing
up it was “normal” while visiting with my grandfather
to have a wonderful morning and be cursed at and thrown out by mid
afternoon because grandpa had hit the bottle too many times during
the visit. “Normal” was a call through the night asking
my dad to put up bail for Uncle John who had shot at a building
while drunk. Or it was my mom counseling my aunts who had lost their
mother, my grandmother, to death, from a car accident caused by
a man who was... you guessed it, drunk.
For my husband “normal” was no alcohol
in the home. “Normal” was every Sunday morning in church.
Normal was the whole family around the table at night. Normal was
having the only battles over Oreo cookies and who got the most.
It became “normal” for my family to go to church every
Sunday morning when my dad decided he’d had enough of an alcoholic’s
life. My dad broke the “normal” mold. My mom didn’t
drink and was always a woman of strong faith, and she had been praying
for my dad for a long time.
For a woman named Angie it is “normal”
to be drunk. It is “normal” to feel inadequate and depressed.
It is all she knows to be abused by men and people. It’s normal
to need a drink as soon as she wakes up because she can’t
deal with all her feelings of despair. It was/is normal to lose
her little boy because she can’t care for him. It was normal
to drink through her pregnancy because she just couldn’t help
herself. It was inevitable that she would bear a son who would spend
the rest of his life dealing with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).
My husband, Brad, and I do not drink. We completely
abstain. Many people have asked us why. Our response is, “We’ve
never met an alcoholic that didn’t take the first drink.”
This, I suppose, definitely disqualifies us from “normal”
and that is very OK, because “the sky’s the limit.”
We were asked to care for Skylar as foster parents
the day after his birth. He was diagnosed with FAS and intrauterine
growth restriction. Skylar was a gift we had been praying for a
long time. He was six days old when we brought him home from the
hospital. I was up all night the first night, and this marked the
many sleepless nights that would come. Many days and nights were
spent in the emergency room.
Skylar had infant asthma. We used a nebulizer regularly
everyday for months. He had pneumonia three times. Feeding would
take hours, not minutes. At four months he was hospitalized for
failure to thrive. During this time Skylar looked me in the eye
for the first time and made me his mommy. At about six months we
began physical therapy through early intervention. He had outpatient
surgery for double hernia repair at six months. We were told we
could adopt him, and on February 9, 2001, when he was eight months
old, he became our son and we threw a party.
By one year we had consultations regularly with nutritionists,
gastroenterologists, occupational therapists, and visiting nurses.
He began walking at 13 months. He was always sick. At two, he had
the Rota virus and was hospitalized overnight for intravenous rehydration,
only to come home, spike a fever and go back to the emergency room
from a fever seizure. Soon after he turned two, he had a feeding
tube placed. During the time he had his feeding tube we started
with some natural medicines, specifically a liquid multivitamin
and cod liver oil. As he was able to get hydrated and receive the
nutrients his body needed, we started to see a child who would have
the ability to go beyond “normal” for a child diagnosed
with FAS. At three his feeding tube was removed and he had surgery
to close the tube site. Age four was pretty uneventful—the
first year without wraparound support and regular doctor visits.
He began eating on his own, although it was still a battle. Now
he is 5½ years old, and we are still often on edge concerning
his health but he is much healthier. He can dress himself, he brushes
his teeth, and he feeds himself. Each of these is a major accomplishment
that has taken a lot of work.
We have been home schooling and we started kindergarten
in the fall of 2005, but had to slow down. His maturity level and
fine motor skills are not quite at the normal kindergarten level;
however, he is so bright, with extremely coordinated gross motor
skills, he loves to sing and play, and he is really good at riding
bike. He is the light of our life. I cannot express the joy he gives
Oh, he’s not “normal.” My sister-in-law
has a little boy who has just turned one year. She meant well when
she told me one day that she wished I could experience a normal
baby. She can’t know that Skylar is everything I could ever
hope for. The work in Skylar was like experiencing three babies
in one. He’s more than “normal.”
May I suggest a new way of thinking? First let’s
break away from “normal”! Do any of us live in a picture
perfect “normal” world? Obviously, considering the brain
damage Skylar has experienced and the effects he will experience
for the rest of his life from the prenatal alcohol, many people
will not consider him “normal.” As his mom I will do
all I can to equip him to find his own success. I can’t say
I have a formula for this success; I don’t even have a game
plan. I have only been able to educate myself one step at a time.
When I research too far I become too overwhelmed with what “might
be,” and honestly I am too busy meeting Skylar’s needs
While home schooling, Skylar and I were learning
about our senses. On a particular day of reviewing something we
learned quite well the day before, Skylar just could not recall
the sense we use our noses for. After asking him several times,
thinking he wasn’t even paying attention to me, he responded
in exasperation, “My sense of humor!” It’s hard
to break away from “normal,” unless you have no choice.
Maybe having no choice is actually what opens the door to many choices,
and frees us to embrace the uniquenesses of a wonderful child like
Food for Thought
My name is Marilee. I was 15 years old, living with my parents, my 11-year-old sister, Marla and the family dog, Bravo. We lived in a quiet neighborhood in a small town on top of a hill. I was a sophomore in high school and all through grade school and high school, I had received excellent grades. At this point in time, homework was becoming difficult. I had to study and had less time for friends. Up until age 14, I had interacted with kids my own age. After supper and after having done my homework, I had played games such as kick the can, hide and seek, and kickball. My peers and I had also put on plays for the neighborhood as well as concerts. We charged a nickel per performance. I had been pretty well-liked by my peers.
At age 15, I began noticing that I was beginning to feel very nervous and had trouble sleeping. I had less ability to concentrate on my schoolwork than in the past. The other kids I knew at school were having no problems. They were able to balance recreation with homework very well. I was in an accelerated class with other kids who were at the top of their class due to test scores they received. A former honor roll student, my grades began to drop due to extreme nervousness and unpredictable sleep patterns. Instead of trying to help me or simply letting me alone, the other kids started calling me names like, “deaf, dumb, and stupid.” The teachers reported being disappointed in my academic performance which consisted of grades lower than usual for me.
My parents were concerned about my dropping grades. I came home from school upset every day because kids were ganging up on me and threatening to “beat me up.” They said I was “ugly” and “retarded.” At home, I was experiencing insomnia and some ups and downs in mood. Sometimes, I was vocal and confident. Other times, I was extremely insecure, vulnerable, withdrawn, and regressed into earlier stages of emotional development. My parents took me to doctors for tests and they gave me a clean bill of physical health. To help cope with some of my problems, I started seeing a young therapist. Talking to her helped some, but not entirely. Because I had insomnia, I was staying up all night and trying to clean or listen to music, which, needless to say, disturbed my family. The therapist addressed the fact that I needed to take into consideration other people’s feelings. I couldn’t verbalize it, but I knew that I was a quiet, non-confrontational kid who was getting picked on at school. The teachers, principal, vice-principal and guidance counselor were not helping me and were in fact taking sides with the other kids because, according to them, if the kids were picking on me, there must have been a “reason.” I can remember only two math teachers and one substitute teacher having any compassion for me at all. I knew I was nervous to the point where it wasn’t “normal.” I knew I didn’t feel well. However, somewhere deep inside me, I knew I was not a bad kid. I was not mistreating the other kids. Though my grades were dropping, I was not disrespectful to the school personnel. I knew the kids were wrong and did not know how to stand up to it. I knew I was misunderstood by the school staff, but I respected authority. I was becoming painfully shy and withdrawn. I was keeping the pain inside and my skin was taking on a greenish tint. The kids pushed me into water fountains, laughed at my every move including the way I walked, talked, and dressed. They threatened me every day and left me out of fun activities. They ostracized me and made it clear they didn’t want me hanging around. I ate lunch alone. The kids I used to be friends with abandoned me. I walked to and from school alone.
At home, my father was becoming impatient. He wanted my grades back up and wondered why I could not handle peer pressure without getting so upset. Marla was not making things easy. She said very insensitive things to me because I made her feel “embarrassed.”
At the end of the year, my parents decided that I would transfer to a Catholic school in my junior year. I started going to a new school in September after a good summer.
I was liked by the kids and teachers in the new school and my grades were excellent. One night in December, there was a school dance. I went with friends. There were kids from my old school there. They started a vicious rumor about me which circulated at my new school.
I was upset when I heard the rumor and overreacted. I started defending myself like I never had in my life. The principal called my parents and told them I had a “behavior problem and possibly an adjustment problem.” He said I needed to go to a school where I could be “helped.” I was devastated. I liked that school.
I went back for counseling where my former therapist recommended that I see a psychiatrist and a psychologist. The psychiatrist put me on medication and my concentration, moods and sleep patterns improved. The counseling center wanted me to go to the same school that the principal in the Catholic school recommended. It was a school for children with emotional problems. The classrooms were small and kids could get individual attention. They had therapists and a psychiatrist on staff. I had wanted to go back to the Catholic school now that I was feeling better. The principal would not take me back. It was either the new school or I would not graduate. I knew that the new school carried a certain stigma about it.
I reluctantly went to the new school. I hated it at first. I missed the other Catholic school. Soon, I adjusted. I got into my studies. I made friends with the other kids, who I found delightful and intelligent. We got into some deep discussions about serious subjects and had fun as well. My teachers praised me for doing my homework because I needed no coaxing like some of the other kids. I won an award for religious awareness and another for patience in doing an art project. My grades were excellent. I enjoyed a very good working relationship with the therapist on staff. I let go of wanting to go to the other school and no longer cared about any so-called stigma with the current school. The kids and staff were making me feel appreciated and I appreciated them in return.
I graduated from that school and went on to college. It took me 12 years to get a bachelor’s degree because I switched my major a few times and because I had medical setbacks. It took the doctors until I was age 25 to diagnose me as bipolar because even though I experienced many of the feelings that a person living with bipolar illness goes through, I did not exhibit many of the behaviors associated with the illness. I believe that all of the mental health professionals that were assigned to work with me did their level best to help me. I began to follow the correct medication regimen. I had to go to a partial program during times of setbacks after three hospitalizations and postpone my college career. During times of extreme mania, I believed that I could fly and attempted it and was very fortunate that I was not permanently hurt. I also became suicidal, but my hospitalizations were voluntary since I really knew I needed help and I wanted it.
I pursued a bachelor’s in social work and went on to get my MSW. degree. After receiving my master’s, I continued to take non-credit courses for fun. I have done volunteer work at 12 different places.
Following college, I worked at a day camp for girls, a factory, a day care center, a residential facility as a child psychotherapist, a receptionist at a tax office, a front desk receptionist at an insurance company and a relay operator, placing calls for deaf customers at a worldwide telephone company.
Currently, I have an active social life with plenty of friends and like to do creative writing in my spare time as well as read novels, spend time with animals, sing in my church choir and enjoy my nephew and nieces. I have a fantastic relationship with my mother, sister, and brother-in-law. My father passed away in 1993, but he lived to see me graduate with my master’s, work as a child psychotherapist and get some of my written work published.
At the present time, I am working as a certified peer specialist and I love my job. Many patients have told me that they would love to be a peer specialist like me. I know that the patients and consumers that I work with have the potential to achieve their dreams and goals, and I hope to give them “food for thought.”
Each Day That I Work is a Victory
I have been working for Mental Health America since April 11, 2006. I initially was hired part-time and for the last year I have been working full-time. I am very specific about my hiring date because, for me, each day that I work is a victory in my journey of recovery over mental illness.
I was given an opportunity at Mental Health America that, at first, I was not even ready to accept. I had just left a job that had not ended well and decided to take things a little slower when I interviewed for a 10 hour a week position with Mental Health America. I did not get that job but I was offered a 20 hour a week position as the Community Support Program Coordinator. I had no idea what the Community Support Program was so I really did not think the position was for me. However as I heard the qualifications for this position, I started to get interested. I believed I had those qualifications and a little excitement stirred inside of me. Did I finally find a fit for me? It was even okay that I came from a long history of mental illness for this job.
I was offered the position and accepted it. I believe from that point work became a huge part of my recovery. As with anything new, there were challenges. Some of the challenges were because of having a new job and some were because I had a new job and was dealing with a mental illness. My supervisor at the time was Kim Wildasin (now Mental Health America’s Executive Director). She was very patient and understanding with me but she also gave me feedback on how to improve myself while working in this position. The one thing that helped me was that I was always willing to do self-improvement and I took her comments constructively and worked at changing.
I stayed part-time until January of 2008 when my position became full-time. This was another huge adjustment in my life. I had never really worked full-time successfully and the last time I had full-time employment was in the mid 1980’s. I remember my doctor asking me if I was able to work full-time. I responded honestly by saying,, “I don’t know but I am willing to give it a try.” Trying is part of the recovery process for me. I was not going to count myself out of full-time employment because of my past history with work.
I remember going home after staring full-time work for the first couple of months and just sitting on the couch because I was mentally drained. It was not too long after that I began to adjust better to full-time employment. Recently we transformed the position of Community Support Program Coordinator to Director of Peer Resources. This is again challenging but I am ready for the challenge.
Since getting full-time employment, I have been able to get totally off of Social Security Disability and since April of 2008 am no longer disabled according to Social Security. This was a goal of mine that has been accomplished. I have a very good life now.
I attribute this successfully journey of my recovery to faith in God, good friends and family, and a work environment that is very conducive to recovery. Recovery does not happen in a vacuum. It is hard work on the part of the person with the illness but takes the support of those around him/her to have a successful journey. Just recently I celebrated my one year of full-time employment with Mental Health America. It was more of a private celebration of gratitude to God, my doctor, MHA and all those who I have met along the way through my journey.