On this bright summer day, I leaned back against the puffiness of the lawn swing listening to the sounds around me. I hear children chattering and playing. I sighed, my lungs filling with air, and I feel deep satisfaction and joy.
I remember that day and the hesitation I felt about sharing with the adoption worker not only did I want to be a single adoptive parent but that I also have a mental illness. Would they, the agency even accept by application, would I be given a chance, would being a mother be in my future? Years back, I can remember a local psychiatric saying to me, the best you can hope for is to manage your symptoms, further stating that I would never work again, and that it would be unlikely I would be allowed to be an adoptive parent. But mental health recovery is not only possible it is achievable. Recovery, defined as a journey of healing and transformation enabling a person with a mental health problem to live a meaningful like in a community while striving to achieve his or her potential is obtainable.
I was honest. I shared my story of childhood adversity and my struggles as an adult with mental illness. I gave the worker my life history, my work history and shared with her my story of recovery. The worker listened, asked questions requested mental health records, and requested a current psychological evaluation and letters of references. After mounds of paper work and many anxious weeks, I received the word, I was being accepted into this new world with the status of pre-adoptive mother, Approved! Now, I wondered, would my file just sit there or would there be a child matched with me one day.
Many more weeks came and went. Then the call came. We have matched you with a child, she is….Joy, excitement and fear pulsed through my veins. The next day, I called back and asked, “Is this for real?” “Yes.”
The next few days were a flurry of activity. There were phone calls to friends and family members and a clatter of excitement. I had to prepare, I needed a crib, clothes, blankets and the lot. My support system sprung into action. Soon I had all the stuff any baby could need.
Within days I was at the foster home and a small 10 pound little girl was placed into my arms. My knees shaking, my legs week, my eyes filled with tears as I sank into the chair. I sat there gazing at this small little creature and then she looked up at m. This is real.
The next weeks were filled with a baby shower, home visits and pure joy. Then an adoptive parent worst fear happened, the phone call came, I’m sorry, but the grandparents are requesting custody of the child. I sat in shock and screamed internally. How could this happen, why did this happen how could I say, good bye, would I have to say goodbye? A few more weeks past and the words came, the decision has been made, the child, my child, my daughter, and the child I named and held and cared for six months is to be turned over to the grandfather by the end of the month.
I don’t know how, but I did it. I cared for her, loved her and said good bye. I was filled with such grief, deep anguish and sadness. I cried, I paced, I walked, I talked, I worked I went about my days. Time passed and like all hurts, the pain begins to become more bearable. Another phone call came. You have been matched with another child. Visits happened and then the phone call came, we are sorry, but the foster parent has requested to adopt the child and since the child has been there more than a year, we have to proceed in that direction. Grief and anger filled my heart and soul. Also why me? Why is this happening to me again?
But the sun does come up tomorrow and each day is yet another opportunity to try again. I began looking at my options. If I was not going to be a parent, should I move out west, go back to school, as I had recently completed my Master’s in Social Work or what would I do. For this stage in my life, what would be my life work be?
But once again that phone rang. “We have a baby needing foster care; would you be interesting in caring for this child?” The words easily flowed out of my mouth, “Yes, I would care for this child for as long as he needs me.” The next day, I met the child, lying in the hospital bed, hooked up to tubes and IV lines. The nurse gently placed him into my arms. Again my knees shaking, legs week, I slumped down into the cool wooden rocking chair. As I gazed at this child, He smiled up at me. It was a beginning.
Two months later, a relative called and asked would I care for her six month old infant as she was unable to care for her at this time. Overnight I became the temporary mother to two infants. I cared for these children with joy and pleasure. The days were filled with work, and bottles, diapers and laundry. I was busy, I was happy; the hectic days turn into weeks.
As the weeks and months rolled by thoughts and worries about how these relationships would end, was never far from my mind. You never know what will happen in life. But I started each day with clarity and a prayer and love. Knowing I would care for these children to the best of my ability for as long as they needed me.
Within the next year, the children became legally free for adoption and on a wet and chilly spring day, we entered the local probate court as individuals and emerge as a family.
My Virtuous Wife (Sharon)
Over forty-three years ago I met my loving wife.
I learned after we were married, you led a virtuous life.
It didn’t take long to discover that you had a sheltered life,
As you came into our wedded bliss as an innocent wife.
As you gave of yourself willingly, dispensing all fears.
Whenever I needed to make a decision,
You would always take a stand on my position.
In a few short years, I learned through God,
That you was a prized member to cherish as my own bod.
When I came home from work and saw your smiling face,
Yet you seem to know I had a rough day and gave me space.
You are my first, second, and third wife,
The woman I chose to keep for life.
You stuck with me through thick and thin,
Knowing that in the end we would win.
During my times of despair or sickness,
You worried and fussed and helped me overcome sickness.
When I showed signs of weakness,
You prayed for my strength in all meekness.
I would that I could give you the world,
But, all I can give is my part of the world.
You are my pearl of great price,
As I married you thrice.
We have had a wonderful forty-three years,
And you have given me to reason to have fears.
I love you with all of my heart,
And only by death shall we ever part.
As together we serve the Lord,
We can enjoy whatever He affords.
While living within God’s gracious grace,
There is nothing that we cannot face.
Just think of the pleasures and fun,
As in this great race we have run.
As you have been to me a loving mate,
I can say of a truth that you are my good fate.
Your loving husband, Frank.
I suffered from absolute mental cruelty and sexual abuse for years from family members who were supposed to be caring for me and loving me. When I became an adult I married at a young age in order to escape my home, but only ended up experiencing the same trauma from my husband. I somehow dug up the strength to divorce my husband. After everything I had lived through I hit bottom…I was a nervous wreck.
In 2006 my brother, who was always there for me, suggested that I go to CMH (Community Mental Health) and get some help. I was diagnosed with major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and chronic depressive personality disorder. My doctor prescribed medicine to help. I was also referred to New Horizons Clubhouse.
Everyone at clubhouse, members and staff alike, was a blessing. After being told for so many years that my life had no hope – there was hope. People were listening to me and not making judgement on me. Ever so slowly I began talking about my anger, hate, confusion, and feelings of abandonment. After so many years of pain, it was like the release of a pressure valve.
Today I still have to cope with anxieties. My dear husband is helping me to handle my hurt and anger in a more productive way instead of just crying. I still struggle with nightmares at times. And the memories of the past still haunt me. But I have become a stronger person since first getting help from CMH. I am currently working a TE (Temporary Employment) job at clubhouse and am working with clubhouse staff to find a “supported employment” job after I complete the TE. I am also tackling some health issues I have. With the help of my doctors and the members and staff at clubhouse I am working on my diet in order to avoid becoming a diabetic. They are showing me the importance of eating right, avoiding carbs, and decreasing my sugar intake. I am starting to lose weight and I am able to fit into clothes that were once too tight for me. I’m starting to feel good about myself. Thank you to everyone that has shown me my life DOES have meaning.
My Life Story
My life hasn’t been that easy. I’ve had my ups and downs. I’ve had to take medications ever since I was two years old. I’ve also had to seek help throughout my life. My parents even had to get help dealing with me through the years. I’ve been in so much trouble with so many people before and I am not doing those things again.
My life is going good right now. I am still working on things. I am going to be recovering all my life. It is not going to happen overnight. It will take some time. I have a long way to go.
Let me tell you a little story. I’ve been misused and I’ve trusted people that have betrayed my trust. I’ve made the wrong friends who either got me into trouble or who ended up using me. That was not good at all. So now I’m going to try to be the woman my mom wanted me to be.
My mom died after I turned 26 years old. This was very hard for me because my mom was my best friend, she was my caregiver, and she was a very special person. Whenever I did something wrong my mom would be there for me. She would teach me what I did wrong and show me how to never do that wrong again. I was the only daughter that she had. The day she died a part of me died too. Now, I have a dark space in my heart and that will never go away. My mom was my world. I am grateful she had a chance to see my daughter, Serenity, born before she went home to heaven. Having a daughter was a dream come true for me.
My life is not the same since my mom died. I’ve cried many rimes since that day. I have also not seen my brothers for a very long time. That is not a good thing for me. They ae the only living family that I have that I am close to. I have one brother that looks and acts just like my mom. I really miss them. It just isn’t fair.
My biological dad is still in my life. He wasn’t there for a long time. When I was little he would only come see me when he had the time. I would often be waiting for him and he would call and say something happened and he wouldn’t be able to come. Now I have a good relationship with him. He is there to help me when I need someone to give me advice. He might be able to answer the questions I have, and that is a good thing.
I’ve been to the clubhouse before this time. I started coming to the clubhouse on March 3, 2004, and now I am trying to show people that I’ve changed and I am not the same person I used to be. I’ve always called the clubhouse my home away from home. My days are good when I am there. I have made new friends. My life is getting better as I keep on working on the problems that I have. And, I will show people that I can do whatever it takes to make myself better. I will get through whatever is thrown my way.
I’ve moved so many times in my life that I cannot call any place my home. Once I am able be together with my daughter and my future husband I will finally be able to say, “I am home”. I have a fiancée and he makes me feel better about myself. We plan to grow old together. He makes me so happy. I know I can always go to him and talk about things and that he will always be there to help me out. His life was just as bad as my life was and that is why he is my soul mate in life. We met at clubhouse. I am looking forward to my dad walking me down the aisle to be married to my one and only. I love my dad so much and I hope he will be able to witness me saying “I do”. I would love him to have at least one grandson before he is to leave this world.
Hi, I am Hannah
I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I was in and out of my mother and step-father’s house, my grandparents’ house, foster care homes, and juvenile detention facilities. I never had time to put down any roots to speak of. People wonder why I am a little flighty. You would be too, if you never knew where you were going to sleep or who was going to provide the next meal.
I went to several schools and had a hard time making lasting friends because I had social anxieties and limited time to make friends. I was not able to graduate because of life circumstances and my mental disorders. I am going to the Learning Lab two or three times per week. I am taking Social Studies and English. I like English the best, There is a staff member there to help you whenever you need help. Much of the learning is on my own. This helps me to be self-sufficient which will help me to be more sufficient with my 10 month old son. Yes, in between all my problems, I fell in love with a nice man. Our son is named Colin James. He is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I am learning how to be more mature and responsible. It is hard dealing with a disorder, school, a relationship, and a child. I try to come to clubhouse three times a week. I usually work in the Culinary Arts Unit. It is good practice for learning to cook and manage making meals.
I want to become a mother and provider for my son. I need everyone’s help and the members at clubhouse are helping. I want to be a loving grandchild and daughter.
For the Past 16 months I have lived in an adult foster care home. When I first got there I was comfortable; I knew that I had 6 to 8 months to change my ways of how I was living. I had to regulate my emotions. This was a lot harder than I thought it would be. So I started to rebel and act up in hopes of being sent to the hospital.
I only ended up going to the ER once and I was sent back to my AFC home instead of going to Crisis Residential in Petoskey. What I didn’t realize was that my rebellious behavior was only extending the amount of time I would have to live in an AFC home. But I didn’t care. I started shutting down and withdrawing from people…and getting very angry. Why couldn’t I go someplace where someone could fix things…fix me? Every time I started doing better I would do something that would ruin everything. I even went 4 consecutive months regulating my emotions to the point that the behavior committee considered sending me back home for the holidays and my daughter’s birthday. But because someone else still hadn’t “fixed me”, I acted out and I missed both Christmas and my daughter’s 11th birthday party. I know she will never forget, nor will I.
Things changed for me on February 23rd, 2015. At this point my anger had caused me to act out physically to someone I actually admired/ My focus of hurting only myself had shifted to hurting others. On that day something in my mind changed. I woke up and began to realize what I was doing to myself and my family. Things haven’t been easy…that’s for sure, but I feel like a stronger person from when I first went into an AFC. My perspective is changing and I know that even during the difficult times I can still focus on others instead of myself. The clubhouse has really helped by being there for me. The biggest and strongest person that has really helped me is my daughter. She is my new perspective. I may not be able to live back home as soon as I would like, but this new perspective gives me hope that I can achieve my goal.
In July I had a setback but now I’m back on track and I’m just picking up the pieces. Right after my setback, there was a tragedy in my family. On July 23rd my youngest nephew was accidently shot and killed. He was only 11. My brother was really grieving, but he took the time to say some caring words to me at the funeral. I never realized how much I meant to him until I heard those words. We never talk that much, but those words are with me every day…especially when I’m having a bad day. Having my family’s support gives me faith and hope.
Growth is a daily thing…putting one foot in front of the other and doing the best you can. Even if you happen to slip and fall, remember that there are people out there who care and are willing to help you get back up and take another foot forward.
Writing to Emotional Recovery: Ameliorating Intense Emotions
Veronica Daniels, MA
Conflicting emotions of deep depression, including anger, affected my life beginning in elementary school. As an only child, I felt intensely lonely and isolated. Additionally, my mother often acted out violently during her bipolar rages. My sophomore year in high school included suicidal ideation. My father was miserable and depressed for his own reasons. Neither parent was emotionally healthy or available. I received my own diagnosis of Bipolar I disorder in my mid-thirties. An outlet for expressing my feelings needed to present itself.
Art and journal writing became my expression outlets. As a little girl growing up in poverty, I knew my dad couldn’t afford the Shel Silverstein poetry books that I wanted. My dad knew I love to read and write and he almost always managed to give me money for Scholastic book orders. I checked out Shel Silverstein books from the school library and copied his poetry into little booklets that I created with notebook paper. I folded whole sheets of notebook paper in half. I then tore those in half. After I had torn several papers in half, I then folded them in half again, put them together in booklet form, and stapled them three times so that they would be secure. Into the wee hours of the night I wrote in tiny letters the poems that I loved so much. Although I was copying another author’s writing, I had begun my love of writing in a way that allowed me to sort my life into a meaningful puzzle of components.
A significant meaningful moment arrived in my adult life several years after I quit my teaching position to pursue my Master of Arts degree in professional school counseling. As a member of the online professional networking community LinkedIn, I often received requests from individuals whom I do not know. I received a message that I reread three times before I realized that the message was from a former sixth grade student of mine! Kady (not her real name) wrote to me that we used to journal back and forth and that it helped her deal with her anger that resulted because of her brother’s death.
I learned about Kady’s brother’s motorcycle accident the first day of teacher-student-parent introductions. Kady and her brother had been very close. Her mother informed me that while Kady normally earned A’s in school that because of her brother’s death, her grades might not reflect this at the beginning of the school year. I offered Kady and her mother the opportunity for Kady to journal with me in a composition notebook that I would give her. We agreed that I would not expect Kady to complete any other work unless she was ready and that I would give her an A. Kady and I were the only people reading and writing in the journal so her privacy was kept intact. I commented on her writing to encourage her. While this was unconventional, sometimes lessons must be modified and students must be met where they are. After about a month, Kady no longer turned in her journal. When I inquired the reason, she stated she didn’t want to anymore. She began completing regular classwork and assignments. I never considered this experience until she tracked me down on LinkedIn.
A student tracking me down left me in tears because she informed me that she searched for me on the internet to let me know that she still journaled and that it helped her with her anger. I taught English Language Arts that year. I provided a profoundly cathartic learning opportunity to a student desperately in need of an emotional outlet. For me, journaling to ameliorate my anger and intense emotions helps me think more clearly. When I re-read my journals now, I identify common themes in my life. One project of mine is to compile my journals into a cohesive life story that will hopefully inspire others. Some individuals fear writing or believe they cannot write. The cathartic effects of writing one’s intense emotions regarding life are profound. I think of Kady every time I journal now, wondering how she is doing in life.
Fierce. Smothering. Nothingness.
Curled tightly under fleece blanket
As if in a protective womb…
No light. Shut up! STOP!
Dull, lifeless – an intruder
In the “normal” scheme of life.
Do not disturb me.
I don’t want to bother you.
Comfort me. Please!
I’m begging you! COMFORT me!
“L E A V E…M E…A L O N E!”
Comfort the disturbed.
Disturb the comfortable.
Tears. Sliding. Bloodshot eyes.
Same mental warfare.
Negative in-head images.
Bipolar I Disorder.
Counseled. Diagnosed. Medicated.
Relax. Relate. Release.
Positive in-head messages.
Maintaining mental well-being.
Comfort the disturbed.
Disturb the comfortable.
Fierce. Smothering. BLACK MOOD.
Leave a message.
I won’t answer your call, e-mail, or text.
Now YOU worry, my friend.
“L E A V E…M E…A L O N E!”
“Stop telling me to snap out of it!”
“Stop belittling me!”
“S T O P calling me c r a z y!”
No! Don’t go! Stay!
Anger marries fear.
A state of de-pressing my Self.
Comfort the disturbed.
Disturb the comfortable.
I am working on my Recovery journey!
I am a child of God and a woman of worth.
I love me! I give and receive love.
Thank you for believing in me!
Thank you for supporting me to attain recovery.
Thank you for encouraging me to “never fear the mountains in the distance.”
WHEN THE BOOK OF LIFE CLOSES A CHAPTER, ANOTHER ONE BEGINS AND THE ADVENTURE OF LIFE CONTINUES.
MICHAEL B. LEFT THIS WORLD SUDDENLY ON JULY 9TH OF THIS YEAR.
MICHAEL B. WAS SEVERAL IMPORTANT CHAPTERS OF MY LIFE.
FIRST AND FOREMOST HE WAS MY HUSBAND. WE WERE MARRIED FOR ALMOST 18 YEARS. AFTER MY DIVORCE I HAD NO INTENTION OF EVER ENTWINING MY LIFE WITH ANOTHER PERSON AGAIN. AND THEN… ALONG CAME MICHAEL. HIS GENTLENESS, SPONTANEOUS ACTION PLANS, AND SENSE OF HUMOR WERE IMPOSSIBLE TO RESIST. WE MET WHILE WE WERE BOTH LIVING IN A TRANSITIONAL HOUSE IN KALKASKA. IT WAS WORTH EVERY MINUTE. HE AND I BOTH HAVE MAJOR MENTAL HEALTH ILLNESSES SO THE JOURNEY TOGETHER WAS NOT WITHOUT DIFFICULTIES BUT FOR THE MAJORITY OF OUR TIME TOGETHER WE TURNED TO EACH OTHER AND SUPPORTED EACH OTHER THROUGH THE TOUGH TIMES AND CELEBRATED ALL THE SUCCESSES BOTH LARGE AND SMALL. TOWARDS THE END THERE WAS A DIFFERENT DYNAMIC. OUR ILLNESSES HAD US TURNING ON EACH OTHER INSTEAD OF TO EACH OTHER SO THAT WE COULD NO LONGER PHYSICALLY LIVE TOGETHER. AT ONE POINT, WE FILED FOR DIVORCE AND CAME CLOSE TO GOING THROUGH WITH IT. WE CAME TO THE REALIZATION THAT WE STILL LOVED EACH OTHER VERY MUCH AND THAT EVEN IF WE HAD TO LIVE APART WE CONSIDERED OURSELVES MARRIED.
PUTTING THE CLUBHOUSE PROGRAM TOGETHER, (WHICH WAS THEN CALLED THE CRYSTAL BEACH FRIENDSHIP HOUSE), UNDER AND WITH DAVID B. LET US GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER VERY WELL VERY QUICKLY. WE BELIEVED IN THIS CONCEPT AND WITH A FEW OTHERS WORKED VERY HARD TO MAKE IT HAPPEN. THE FIRST DAY WE OPENED THE CLUB MIKE AND I ARRIVED FIRST. WE HAD BEEN TEASING ABOUT FLIPPING A COIN TO SEE WHO WOULD BE THE FIRST TO SIGN IN. WE NEVER DID. HE GOT ME SIDETRACKED LOOKING OVER SOMETHING THAT WAS NOT QUITE FINISHED AND PROCEEDED TO SIGN IN FIRST.
LASTLY, NO MATTER WHAT LIFE THREW AT HIM AND ME HE WAS MY BEST FRIEND. HE WAS MY BIGGEST SOURCE OF NATURAL SUPPORT AND WILL ALWAYS BE IN MY HEART, MY BEST FRIEND. I SUPPORTED HIM IN HIS ATTEMPTS TO DRIVE TRUCK WHICH HE LOVED AND HIS EFFORTS IN HAVING RELATIONSHIPS WITH HIS CHILDREN. HE SUPPORTED ME IN MY ADVOCACY EFFORTS. HE PUSHED ME, BEYOND MY BELIEF IN MYSELF, TO JOIN THE ANTRIM/KALKASKA/NORTH COUNTRY MENTAL HEALTH BOARD. HE PUSHED ME AND SUPPORTED ME IN MY PRESENTATIONS AT CONFERENCES. I DID WHAT I DID AS WELL AS I DID BECAUSE HE WAS BEHIND ME, BELIEVING IN ME.
MICHAEL, I MISS YOU SO MUCH AND I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU. I WILL HONOR ALL THAT WE WERE TOGETHER FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.
Michael Brown was a founding member of New Horizons Clubhouse and long-time member of the North Country CMH Consumer Council, until his death in July of 2014.