April 22, 2013
Homeless and Housing Resource Network contributing writer Melissa Cogswell shares her personal experience with mental illness—her struggles, her strength, and her realization that having a diagnosis does not mean that you are the diagnosis.
I have bipolar disorder.
It has taken me ten years, numerous doctors and therapists, many medications, countless relationships, and too many cycles through mania and depression to count (or even remember) to realize that I HAVE bipolar, not that I AM bipolar.
I was first diagnosed when I was nineteen. I was informed that I was bipolar and that if I wasn’t heavily medicated, I would kill myself. It felt like a death sentence; at least if I committed suicide, I would have some level of control. After I began the medications, I went from being a driven, curious, academically inclined person to a lump that slept twenty hours a day. I couldn’t read; I couldn’t think; I could barely focus to watch a 30-minute sitcom on TV.
I knew that I couldn’t handle a life I wasn’t living, so I stopped seeing the doctor. I stopped taking the medications. I began to self-medicate. I spent years cycling through mania and depression, occasionally seeking help from a doctor whose first inclination was to medicate me. No one wanted to hear what I wanted. I felt that, because I was ill, what I wanted didn’t matter. The doctors “knew” what was best for me. I had to obey or not receive treatment. I opted not to seek treatment.
In the summer of 2008, I found myself in the emergency room after being sexually assaulted. I was manic and I was scared. I asked for a doctor and I asked for medication; both were provided to me. I immediately liked Dr. S. She wanted to hear how I felt and not just prescribe me drugs. She listened to me. She didn’t just want to talk about my illness. In her office I talked about my hopes, my dreams, my goals, and my relationships. In her office I realized that I wasn’t my illness. My illness was, and always will be, a part of me, but it does not define me.
After several months working with Dr. S and taking medication I realized that it was not what I wanted. The drugs kept me from cycling, dulled my thinking, and had other impacts on my life that I wasn’t comfortable with. With trepidation, I asked her if we could begin to work towards managing my illness without medication. After listening to me explain how I felt I could manage my illness with the coping skills we had identified in our time together, she readily agreed. She understood that this was my life and my illness, and it was her job to help me implement the choices that I felt were best for me.
Dr. S. helped me understand that I am not bipolar, but instead that I have bipolar disorder. She was the first doctor I worked with who understood that I was not my illness; that I had my own hopes, dreams, and goals; and, just like people without mental illness, I am allowed to decide what is best for me.
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March 29, 2013
Donna Wilbur collaborates with Homeless and Housing Resource Network writer Wendy Grace Evans-Dittmer to share her personal recovery experience. In this blog, Donna recounts how, with the support she received along the way, she can now “Look People in the Eye.”
I work at the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University as a teacher. At first, I volunteered to teach a typing class. As I received positive reviews, I slowly began to fill in for other teachers who were out on leave or taking time off. After three years, I was offered the opportunity to teach a number of courses, including a computer course, Social Security Income courses, and a Navigating Recovery course that is comparable to developing a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP).
The Navigating Recovery course was comprised of developing an understanding of fitness, as well as learning the importance of connectedness and wellness. While I don't like to disclose on a regular basis, I choose to disclose when it will be beneficial because I believe that disability needs to be valued.
I was trained by Marilyn Copeland in Vermont and have worked at the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation for 13 years. Currently, I live and work as the House Manager at a women’s lodging house. All of the women in the house have psychiatric symptoms. They all work in professional careers and choose to live in the house where they receive support for their demanding lives. I have a third job working with a young adult man who has severe disabilities, which include hearing voices, obsessive compulsive disorder, and paranoid delusions.
I had my own darkest days before I entered the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation's Training for the Future course and began my recovery. I never thought that I could finish the program, but my father and my best friend supported me through this time. Prior to entering the program I had been on disability for ten years, had posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, suffered from bipolar disorder, and was receiving trauma therapy. It was through my therapy that I learned of Bessel Van der Kolk's work at The Trauma Center in Boston. I went through several hospitalizations prior to enrolling in Training for the Future, but eventually completed my B.S.W. at Bridgewater State College with assistance from Massachusetts Rehabilitation, who helped me with the cost of books and transportation. Additionally, they paid for half of the cost of enrolling in Training for the Future, while Social Security, through the PASS program, covered the other half. I use much of this training at the Center now.
With the aid of a service dog—a miniature, wire-haired dachshund—I am able to get out of bed in the morning; she helps me not to disassociate. Lee Walmack, a mentor, once said when I thought I could not finish my program, "I hope you dance." When I think of where I am today, and where I have been, I know that I am able to dance. At that time I had no confidence, but by the end I could look people in the eye. I had hope.
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April 07, 2011
The Homelessness Resource Center training team is in the swing of the training season. Over the next five months, we’ll be criss-crossing the country to offer free two-day training events in four cities. Mark your calendars for the following events:
- Denver, Colorado, May 19-20, 2011
- Providence, Rhode Island, June 28 & June 29-30 2011
- Los Angeles, California, August 1-2 & August 3, 2011
- Roanoke, West Virginia, August 23-24, 2011
Stay posted for information on how to register and details on the training workshops for each event.
Each training will offer HRC’s core curriculum, Promoting Wellness: An Integrated Approach to Homeless Service Delivery. Join us to learn more about innovative strategies for providing homeless services and creating environments that are person-centered, trauma-informed, and recovery-oriented.
HRC’s training team and our federal and local partners will share expertise in Motivational Interviewing, Consumer Integration, Trauma-Informed Care, Self-Care, Housing, Outreach, and much more. Continuing Education Units (CEU) will be available to participants who complete the training.
Interested in being a HRC Guest Blogger? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
November 30, 2010
We’re delighted to share some exciting news: SAMHSA’s HRC website has been honored with two awards! The Web Marketing Association awarded an “Industry Standard of Excellence” award in the government category for Outstanding Achievement in Web Development. HRC also won a 2010 New Media “Standard of Excellence Award” in the government category.
The New Media Awards are known for recognizing outstanding uses of new media in communications. The Web Marketing Association’s WebAward Competition is the premier website award program available today.
From the start, SAMHSA’s Homelessness Resource Center has worked hard to be innovative. We wanted to find new ways to reach out to providers working in homeless services. We wanted to use the power of the Internet, electronic communication, and social networking to share evidence based and promising practices with providers. Launched in 2008, the HRC website was the result.
We’ve heard from HRC community members and providers across the country that the HRC website helps them learn, connect, and share resources. This feedback helps us to improve the website to give providers what they need to do their jobs. We’re gratified to know that those outside of the field are now also recognizing our work.
Are you interested in sharing your voice on “Voices from the Field”? Email us at email@example.com