I became mentally ill during my senior year of high school. I began to self-abuse, and then went to the other extreme of spending all of my money. I became very depressed and tried to kill myself. In and out of hospitals for many years, finally I was diagnosed with a mental illness and placed on medications. I started to feel better, went on to college and graduated. Obtaining a job as a special education teacher, I taught for three years. It was during this time that I was putting myself in unhealthy relationships. It finally caught up with me, and I became extremely depressed and ended up driving my car into a tree at 80 MPH. I broke my neck in two places. I recovered physically from that accident over a long period of time, but mentally I was a wreck. I’ve had more than thirty ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) treatments over the years. I ended up in a nursing home, and knew that this wasn’t the life I wanted to live. I had gone through all the services in the community and was written off as someone who would never get well.
I heard about the GROW Residential Center in Kankakee. After numerous contacts with GROW, I was finally accepted into the Residential Program. The structure and staff helped me right away. I realized I had to take responsibility for my illness. My doctor helped reduce my medications to half right away, and I started to feel better. Many parts of the GROW Program have helped me to gain insight and change my life. The “Three Practical Points for Control” (Blue Book, p. 32) made me realize I had to weigh the “pros and cons” and just do it. The “Emergency Measures” (Blue Book p. 32) helped me to learn to control my thinking and to think positively. The “Three Basic Changes” (Blue Book, p. 13) helped me realize that I could turn myself into a better person, giving me hope. I knew I would have to self-activate and practice the GROW Program over time to get well.
The friendships I made at GROW have gotten me through a lot of tough times. I got well because of their love, patience and commitment to me, and seeing in me what I couldn’t see in myself-- a person who has value, who could get well and live a better life.
Now I work full-time with developmentally disabled adults, and have held this job for over twelve years. I live on my own in my own apartment. I handle my own finances, and it feels great to be independent. GROW prepared me for the real world, and I feel I can handle life now as it comes to me. GROW SAVED MY LIFE, and I will always cherish the GROW Program. Recently I am realizing the value of giving back to others, and have been volunteering weekly at the GROW Residential center over the past year, sharing with others what has been given to me. I am finding this a very rewarding experience.