30 Stories, 30 Days
I had a very nice childhood. My favorite thing to do was play with my younger brother. I thoroughly enjoyed kindergarten and grade school. When I got to high school I was overwhelmed, and I felt alone. Things turned around for the better by the middle of junior year. Then I discovered more friends and felt like I really fit in where I was. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder by the end of my senior year. I did not require hospitalization at that time. Four years later I had a bad reaction to street drugs. I started to hear voices.
I am now well into my recovery, but I still hear voices from time to time. In my twenties and thirties, I was hospitalized many times. In my thirties especially. My dad discovered Yahara House for me, and once I was on the right insurance, I became a member.
After becoming a member of Yahara House my life vastly turned around for the better. I had a place to go, a community to be a part of and meaningful work to do. Yahara House gave me instant friends, and another family to enjoy the company of staff and members. Having this structure in my life and getting out of my home has meant all the difference in my recovery. Early in my time at Yahara House I met my current girlfriend. I am still with her and that too has been central to my improved state of mental health.
Typically, I work in the Café on the third floor, and most of the time you can find me up there washing dishes. I love the Café because of the laidback, communal vibe, all the laughter, and we even enjoy a lot of music up there! I decided to go off my meds in July 2019 and just flew off the rails. I was a bear to be around, and everyone knew this was not the real Brent. Thankfully at Yahara House I had support, and everyone there understood that this was the illness acting up, and it was good to be in a place free of stigma. One of the things I would like the most to change, that would raise the quality of my life, is to no longer hear voices.
After joining Yahara House, it took around a year to figure out how the Clubhouse worked. I found that Café was the best fit at the start, and the only department that made sense at the time. Yahara house has made my actions and efforts meaningful. I can focus my energy in a positive way. The daily Yahara House work helps me navigate the world in so many ways that would have been unavailable to me. It helps with running errands and doing daily tasks for example My favorite department is serving food with my husband Noah in Café at lunchtime because people get choice in their food, and I like giving people what they want in a fast paced environment, with instant gratification of seeing happy faces.
When I wasn’t driving I struggled to learn the non-emergency transportation, and I thought anything outside a few blocks of my apartment was 100% out of reach. Learning to trust in a ride service helped me. I Learned to expand my world a little bit. I took control over my world a little bit. I took control over when and how I used YH. It was a necessity for me. I had to change my life somehow.
I’ve exceeded every milestone or goal and am capable of right now. In order to get to YH and appointments, I learned how to drive after 17 years. This was monumental for me.
I grew up in upstate New York in a small town of Gowanda. My father owned his own potato chip business and drank a lot growing up, therefore there was abuse. Growing up in my household I felt unwanted. This caused me to hang out with a lot of unhealthy kids in my neighborhood. I was the youngest of 9 and I began running away at 14. I couldn’t take my dad’s abuse anymore.
Around this time, I started hanging around with hippies and the least desirables. I’ve traveled to 42 states, hitchhiking, and lived on the streets for a while. Loneliness got the best of me, and I turned to alcohol and drugs and spent 10 years trying to get off of it. All the horror it caused me was undesirable. I ran into AA and Yahara House, and they helped me grow to recovery. I no longer use alcohol and drugs and am grateful for that. I got married at 22, I have 3 daughters, and they are healthy.
I am grateful I am alive today, continue to change, and have a new and wonderful life that I have never lived before. Now I have dreams and thank God for Yahara House. There is a new and wonderful life without alcohol and drugs. I now can embrace a new, amazing, and joyous life I would never think possible.
I was given a place to live at the Port St. Vincent and protected there very much, and I no longer have to live on the streets. I’ve been given a design of living that works now. Life is good and I can re-grow up all over again.
Thank God for life that I am able to embrace today. Peace, joy and love to all. I give my story away to help others, and it helps me keep what I have. I’ve even decided to go back to church again, which is a blessing also. God is good, life is good, thank you.
In my twenties, I developed my first mental health symptoms. The paranoia, depression and delusions meant that I could not hold a job. Specifically, the paranoia symptoms affected my ability to work. I Hadn't been diagnosed yet. I was depressed, and could not hold a job for long, because of my paranoia, which triggered my depression. I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when I was hospitalized. I would not take my meds consistently; I thought it was a fake diagnosis. I would do okay for a while, then get hospitalized again. Finally, I realized that my mental illness was real, and stayed on medication. The medication had benefits, on the downside my life was dull and depressing. I would go to my psychiatrist and therapist begging for somewhere to go, because I was so lonely and depressed. Finally, they suggested Yahara House. I went to Yahara House every day. Eventually, I felt comfortable and found myself making friends; and connecting with the staff. The meaningful work, and a place to go where people cared about you, made a significant difference in my life. I was able to start working through Yahara House’s TEP program. It led to another TEP, which led to a permanent job.
At Yahara House, I work primarily in the café. I love cooking and serving delicious food to members and staff. I cannot go as much as I used to because I work three days a week. But I still go when I can; about two days a week. I feel like Yahara House has given me a sense of community. The members are more like my family. They care and accept me for who I am. They do not care that I have mental illness. They treat me like a valuable person, and care about what I think. When I get busy with something else, they wonder where I am, because they miss me and care about me.
During Covid, I had a recurrence of voices which I had not had since I started at Yahara House. I talked to my service facilitator. He talked with the nurses from Yahara House, and they contacted Dr. Coleman, my psychiatrist, right away. He upped my prescription to help me with voices. I also had some depression, and the same thing happened. My service facilitator helped me contact the right people; and get an increase in my medication. Before I was a member of Yahara House, I could not get in touch so easily with my psychiatrist. Instead, I would have to go through Crisis. This was not a good option because they could not address the medication that I needed. Yahara House was helpful because it is a community there for Yahara members.
I do not remember the last time I was at YH. I think a lot has changed. For a while I was working at Solstice house- a place in Madison where people can get support for mental health stuff- peer run respite- I was a peer support specialist there- talked to people about what was going on with them- finding resources- running the warm line. A warm line you can call about anything, can call people before they are in a crisis. I finished my degree in genetics and recently I have a new job for a software company, writing tests, so the software is running correctly. I did some volunteer work at the university on a paper that is going to be published in a journal – it is in genetics. I am married and have a kid now.
How has Yahara House supported your recovery in the past?
I found YH to be extremely helpful. I am doing good these days. Things used to be bad for me with mania and depression. I could barely function. I ended up in the hospital numerous times. YH helped me get back on my feet with structure. They had tasks for me to do and people that have similar experiences so I could relate to other members. YH helped with getting back into school and making lists of goals with my case manager. Temporary support positions were very helpful- I worked at Steve and Barrys – they sold clothing. I worked at two other TEP’s – Genoa Pharmacy, sorting out medications and Hy-vee bussing tables. This gave me confidence and added to my resume. TEP’s are mutually beneficial, because YH members get jobs, and the employer is guaranteed coverage.
How has Yahara House created change in your life for the past 5 years?
-I’ve gained confidence so I can get back into things.
What opportunities has Yahara House fostered for you?
It helped me feel more confident to get back into stuff, starting simple, having something to do without the pressure of worrying, knowing there are people backing me up. Giving me things to do. Spending time with other members and learning their stories helped me feel like I was going to be okay.
What one thing stands out why you became a member and stayed a member at YH?
-Both the structure provided and having people to interact with that have gone through similar things.
One practical piece of knowledge that I learned at Yahara House is that individuals with a disability can audit classes at the UW without affecting their GPA, for free. I did this several times after I got out of the hospital. Auditing a course is no pressure, you do not get graded, do not have to pay money, or have a GPA. This helps build confidence to return to school later.
I do not want to downplay have a mental illness. Do not take people too seriously if they tell you that you cannot do something because you have something going on. Just try and see if you can do it.
I have been struggling with mental illness since I was ten years old. I have been in several mental health facilities as an adolescent. None of those facilities helped until I went to an adolescent psychiatric hospital in Madison where I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.
I dealt with my illness in some good ways and also some not good ways. Some of the good ways are guided meditation, and some journaling. Some of the bad things I have done are self-harm behaviors and a couple of suicide attempts. I have not had a bad behavior in about five years.
My success is partially because five years ago my Dane County case worker had found Yahara House. The support of staff and colleagues at Yahara House has helped me not have any suicide attempts during this time. I learned to reach out for help when I need it. The Transitional Employment Program gave me the courage to gain independent part-time employment to keep myself busy and out of trouble. Committee work helps me not only keep busy, but also learn specific skills and have experiences that I wouldn’t normally have had. The work I do at Yahara House is more than just a job, it is a meaningful work where I feel like I’m making a difference.
However, getting into a Clubhouse was a struggle because I had two insurances and was told that I would have to drop one of them to become a member. There are currently only five Clubhouses in Wisconsin, and not all have the resources to be accredited.
But this story is not over.
Recovery is a decision you make every day. That is why I shared my story today, to talk about Clubhouse to help others the way I have been helped. Please donate to Yahara House and support the Clubhouse movement!
My journey to Yahara House was a long one. I worked in the private sector at sales and marketing jobs for 20 years and had no mental health symptoms. The onset of my disorder began in 2018, when I had extreme spikes in anxiety and some instances of self-harm. I hit, scratched and pinched myself, one such instance required major surgery. I was diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder with OCD. Unfortunately the medication I was originally on to counteract this been on stopped working in the autumn, and I started to really crash mentally. I had to quit my job in December 2019 to get additional help, even though my work gave me an accommodation.
A psychologist I met over Christmas break in Outpatient taught me about Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT Skills, to help mitigate my symptoms. I learned about meditation and mindfulness. I started to control things better but was staying in bed all day because I was depressed. It took me until May 2021 to find a DBT therapist, and this therapy really helped me. I was also in DBT Group therapy until I was asked to leave because I self-harmed on camera. I continued with my therapy until I came to the end what she could offer me. It took me until July 2022 to find a really great DBT therapist.
In October 2021 I also discovered I had breast cancer, and this truly was hell. I had to have a left mastectomy to avoid the cancer spreading. My surgery was scheduled for December 2021. I was terrified. Then I found out I also needed major eye surgery or I could go blind. This really sent me over the edge. With the support of family, friends and Gilda’s Club, I was able to get through both of these surgeries. It turns out my cancer was Stage 1; a true blessing, my oncologist recommended that I do preventative chemotherapy to increase my chances of surviving long term. After my mastectomy, I had my eye surgery in February 2022 and that went well. Three weeks after the eye surgery, I had preventative chemotherapy, which lasted until the end of May. I elected to shave my head rather than watch my hair fall out. I tolerated the chemo well. Then, after this I started taking an estrogen blocker, which can cause cancer to grow more quickly. This hormone caused a large regression of my symptoms last summer. My psychiatrist finally prescribed me Wellbutrin which really helped my mood and symptoms. Then, in late September 2022, I started coming to Yahara House.
Yahara House has helped me immeasurably. When I came here I had more symptoms than I do now. Its been rewarding to hear people say I’m doing much better. I have more self-confidence now, and I have a place to go during the weekdays and do meaningful work. It makes me feel a part of something and gives me something to look forward to.
Yahara House has also widened my circle of friendships. I love hearing peoples stories and working alongside them on projects. The community here understands my issues and doesn’t negatively judge me. I can truly be myself and talk about my experiences openly.
My favorite department to work in is Membership & Communications, or MC. I have enjoyed editing videos for this 30 Stories, 30 Days campaign! I enjoy helping with our social media presence and making art once a month. I have also enjoyed hearing about what other clubhouses are doing.
One thing that would continue to help me improve the quality of my life would be being able to live independently again and to get off of disability, or at least to get a part-time job and get back in the workforce. This is a large goal for me in the next year.
Before I joined Yahara House I was at my low of my lowest, got kicked out, no job and no driving license all due to my illness. I got diagnosed with bipolar disorder in October of 2004. My reality flipped upside down. A whole new door opened and I had to walk thru it. I really wanted to get higher education and finish it, but illness keeps coming back and I end up dropping out each time.
When I joined Yahara House, decade after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I really didn’t know how it would help me, but my mother insisted that I attend regularly. I started coming to Yahara House two days a week. After getting to know the people, I started to enjoy coming here. With a help of YH staff I was able to take care of a legal issue in the State of Minnesota (felony case was dropped down to misdemeanor). I was able to take care of my financial issue because they help me get connected to government assistance.
My life started turning around and I wanted to shoot at getting my higher education degree in Radiologic Technology. After getting accepted into the program, my case worker at Yahara House kept in touch of how I was doing in school. I wanted to give good reports and I kept doing well in school. I finished school and working at UW Hospital fulltime as Radiologic Technologist.
Yahara House took a big part in my recovery and from time to time when everything is going well, I always try to remember my condition and my situation when I first walked into the Clubhouse. I enjoy working in every department because that way I get to meet everybody because some people tend to stick with one department.
I do not wish for anything more; I am very much content with what I have going for me. I have my family member, my friends and last but not the least YH community. My only wish is that only if I had found out about Yahara House sooner, my life would not have taken this long to turn around. I like to thank Yahara House, the staff, members and everyone else working in the background.