I was four months pregnant and I went for an ultra-sound. The doctors couldn’t find a heartbeat. I was devastated. It took 10 hours to deliver my dead baby. I didn’t think I needed therapy. I thought I was OK. A year later, in 2006, I went out of control. I walked off my job, cut chunks out of my hair and started talking crazy. I was admitted to Western Missouri Mental Health Center for the first time. Six days later I left with medication for schizophrenia and paranoia, I was 35 years old. They told me I shouldn't live alone anymore so, I gave up my apartment and went to live with my Mom. I took the medication for a while but I hated the stigma of being a mental patient so I stopped.
I found a job and I was OK until January 2007. Then I started hearing voices and seeing things. I bucked up to my Mom and pulled the basement ceiling down. I called the fire truck and ambulance yelling, “there’s a fire at our house.” I remember going to a clinic, pointing my finger like a gun and yelling and screaming at people. I did the same thing at the Post Office! Later I walked 10 blocks in the middle of the street throwing trash everywhere. I was so out of it. Everything was a blur. The police arrived and handcuffed me. They threw me into the paddy wagon and took me to the Western Missouri Mental Hospital for the second time. Whilst I was there I had to go to court for pushing the security officer in the Post Office! They chained my hands and feet for the journey. My Mom and sisters wanted me to stay in the mental hospital so the judge ordered me to stay a month.
I felt a lot of shame for who I was and what I’d done. I refused visitors. I didn’t want to face my family or see people. When I left they placed me in a homeless shelter. I had to leave at 8am and I couldn’t return until 6 pm. Every day I walked the streets. That’s when I first came to Reconciliation Services, they welcomed me in and let me be. I got to help out too.
My Mom was really angry with me. She didn't understand what I was going through, nobody did. She was looking after my teenage son and didn’t want me to come back to the house. It was a long time before we started talking. We eventually re-built trust and I moved back in.
I found a janitorial job and worked at the IRS building for five years. In 2009 I got my own apartment for me and my son and I bought a car. Then in 2012 the guy I was dating noticed that my eyes wondered and that I would go off in a daze. I couldn’t tell him it was my medication. I wasn’t ready to be honest about having a mental illness. I was still in denial! I was fearful! I knew if I said I was on medication, I would be blown out of the water. People look at you differently when they know you have a mental illness. They really do! I didn’t want to be looked at that way. I wanted to be treated like a human being! I wanted to be thought of as normal!
So I stopped taking my medication and I was OK for nine months. The next outburst happened at work and lasted a few weeks. It was worse than the other times. I lost my job, my car and my home. I was handcuffed, thrown into the paddy wagon again and taken back to Western Missouri. I was there twelve days . When I got out on November 9th 2012, I was determined not to go back. I made up my mind to face my condition, read up on it, take my medication and do what I needed to do. I saw a therapist for a year and I was able to express everything I felt about losing my baby—how it traumatized me. I was able to get it all out and it felt so good. It’s now easier to be open, honest and vulnerable about my condition; what I’ve been through and how I’ve hurt people. I’ve come to a place of acceptance.
I’ve been volunteering at RS since 2013. Recently I started doing three days a week. On Mondays I do the intake for the food pantry and bag the groceries. Wednesday and Friday I answer the phones in the Cafe and greet people as they come in. Friday nights we serve a hot meal. It’s often challenging, we see high volumes of people throughout the day. Everyone has different personalities and problems. Some are homeless, others are traumatized. Many have mental illnesses, all have desperate needs. I love to be here and to help. I remember where I’ve come from and all the people who have been patient, forgiving and kind to me. RS has been a safe place for me since 2007 when my illness began. I have always been treated with love and respect here. It’s a privilege to be a part of this community and give back. I love it! It gives me so much joy to help others along the way, especially when I know they share the same mental illness as me.
What have you learned from these past few years? I’ve learned that my mental illness does not define me as a human being. What defines me is a simple trust in God that I am important and I’m loved unconditionally. Also I’ve made the conscious choice to reflect and learn from my experience, not everybody does that. I know the power of forgiveness from God and from my family and I have forgiven myself. I have peace in my life because of this. Peace with God, peace with my family and peace with myself.