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Clubhouse Member Stories
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Clubhouses offer people who have mental illness hope and opportunities to reach their full potential.  Here are some of the many stories we have received from members and families of members:

 

John C.'s Story

 

 

Although I grew up in California, I first began to experience symptoms of mental illness when I was living in a monastery in Sri Lanka. I began to hear voices and ended up in a hospital there.  I returned home, but continued to be symptomatic.  I was hospitalized, which is where I first learned about Putnam Clubhouse. 

 

I became a Clubhouse member. I work in the Hospitality unit, which is in charge of preparing meals, cleaning parts of the Clubhouse, and shopping for food and goods. I go on reach out trips to visit members who haven’t been regularly attending the Clubhouse. I’ve taken on leadership roles at the Clubhouse by running meetings and helping other members participate in the work ordered day. I’ve given many presentations in the wider community to tell other people about our program and the recovery model that we follow.

 

Because of the Clubhouse, my life has changed in many positive ways.  If it weren't for the Clubhouse, I don’t know what I’d be doing with my time.  My Clubhouse has helped me lead a meaningful and productive life. I don’t struggle with anxiety and depression and I have gained more confidence.  The Clubhouse has also been an outlet for practicing kindness and compassion with others. As far as my hopes and dreams go, I am certain I would like to return to monastic life.  But in the meantime, I have my friends at the Clubhouse for support; and I am able to give back to others through my involvement at the Clubhouse. 

 

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Patrick's Story

 

 

I am twenty two years old and I am in recovery from bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, an eating disorder and substance abuse. I wanted to talk about how my illnesses have plagued me with great isolation and how I recovered with the help of Crossroads Clubhouse. 

As a child, my brother Sean and I were neglected and abused. We both began drinking at an early age. In 2009, Sean was killed in a drunk driving accident.
 
A year later, I began to experience my first manic episode. I was completely delusional. I immediately ended up in a psychiatric ward, where I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. 

My therapist referred me to Crossroads Clubhouse. Crossroads helped me develop my very first healthy relationships. The welcoming membership brought me out of my shell and supported my sobriety. The more I attended the Clubhouse, the less I felt the desire to isolate. Becoming involved with the Clubhouse movement gave me a new sense of purpose. They have helped me acquire a G.E.D. They found me a place to live when I was about to become homeless. They have helped me become employed through their Transitional Employment program, which led to me being hired as a permanent employee. I want to give to others what the Clubhouse has given to me. I have been given the opportunity to lead a life that I never imagined I could. 

Without Crossroads, I wouldn't have over two years of sobriety. I wouldn't have relationships that will last a lifetime. I wouldn't be happy. I wouldn't be alive.
 
Today, there is a happiness inside of me that can't be taken away. I feel like Sean would be proud.

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John's Story

 

 

I turned to drugs and alcohol at a young age after being assaulted by a child predator. I felt as though this was my only escape. I was diagnosed later with schizophrenia and have been living with the illness for many years.

 

Before Venture House I felt like I was alone. My life was characterized by isolation, substance abuse and hospitalization. But at Venture House I am a part of a community and have many things in common with my fellow members. Since I joined Venture House I feel more in control of my disability. I take medications daily and along with other supports in my life I am able to keep my mental illness in check. Since joining Venture House I have not been in the hospital and I have remained clean and sober.

 

When I come to Venture House and interact with staff and members I feel good about myself. When I first joined Venture House I had no idea what to expect. I was surprised when all of the members greeted and welcomed me. It felt like I belonged and it felt great!

 

Venture House has helped me return to the workforce. After participating in the Clubhouse work day for a couple of years, I got a Transitional Employment job, which was the first time I worked in 15 years. Venture House gave me a chance when others would not. Today I am proud to say that I am employed by New York State and am presently in line for a promotion.

  

Many of the members of Venture House have become good friends of mine. If I can help them with their disabilities I will, because my goal is to give back to society instead of always taking.  

 

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Mimi's Story

 

 

 

After studying for a few months, I found it too demanding. I started to accuse the teachers of all kinds of things, and could not concentrate during the class. I was then diagnosed with schizophrenia. My life turned into years of struggling with mental illness - going in and out of hospitals, spending too many Christmases in the hospital.

 

My mental illness not only affected my relationships with my friends and family, it also greatly hindered my work life. In my ten years of working, my history was very fragmented.

 

In 1998, Phoenix clubhouse was set up. I was one of its earliest members.

 

Working in the clubhouse and on a Transitional Employment job give me job satisfaction and also help to rebuild my confidence and good relationships with people. I feel welcomed by the members of the clubhouse. They are willing to work with me and establish friendships.

 

After finishing my first Transitional Employment, I will try another TE and then look for other suitable jobs myself. I would also like to enroll some re-training course to further enrich my skills and knowledge.

 

I am grateful that the Clubhouse has offered me tremendous opportunities to grow and regain my confidence in a work environment.

 

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Steven's Story

By Steven Manning, member of the Carriage House (Fort Wayne, Indiana) and member of the Clubhouse International Board of Directors


I was suicidal and had to be hospitalized. It felt like an unending nightmare, and one that I would not wish on my worst enemy. I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and eventually ended up losing my job and going on Social Security disability. I can recall saying to myself, all that I need is a glimmer of hope. That’s all I need is a glimmer of hope.

Finally that glimmer of hope I was so desperately longing for made its way into my life. One day my case manager took me to visit the Carriage House, and I can honestly say that my life has not been the same since I stepped through the doors of that beautiful house.


Thanks largely to my Clubhouse, I have my Masters’ degree, and am currently working back in my career field of radio, TV, and motion pictures. Today, I own my own video production business and a growing list of clients!

Clubhouse provides a positive community environment that emphasizes five important words… you can and you will!

For more on Steven, click here.

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Elizabeth's Story
By Elizabeth Lacher

What does belonging mean? There are different aspects to belonging. The first is to have a place among people where I am accepted the way I am. This does not mean that everyone in the Clubhouse approves of everything I do or say. However, what it does mean is something even more important than that. It means that I am respected and accepted without judgment.

For me there are two places where I belong: my family of origin and the Clubhouse.

Unlike a family of origin, the Clubhouse is a community that you can choose to belong to. Membership is voluntary, and there are no time limits on membership. This means a lot to me. It guarantees a right to be part of a supportive community, and it also guarantees that this community won’t be taken away from me.

Belonging to the Clubhouse guarantees me a place in the world and society. I have a stronghold, and from there I can develop and grow in whatever ways I choose. I experience acceptance and appreciation. I can come and go as I want to. I receive what I need. And above all, I can always return.

I think that this is one of the most important reasons why the Clubhouse is so successful for so many different people.

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Greta’s Story

After I got sick my parents had to put me into a mental hospital mainly because they could not watch me all the time. I had no idea what I was to do. After three times of going to the mental hospital, the nurses finally decided to put me into a community care home, and my parents agreed at the time.

I stayed there for nine months. On the seventh month that I was there, I was offered the chance to go to Gateway House. After a couple of months going to the Clubhouse, I noticed that I was doing better. I got up early each morning and started going to what I felt like was a job. Gateway House offered me an apartment. I was so happy because it was my first time to be on my own.

  • Now I have been living in my own place for two and a half years.
  • It has been three years since I have been in the hospital.
  • I see my parents all the time. I go to the grocery store and to Walmart.
  • I work on Transitional Employment Placements such as Schlotzky’s Deli, and I currently am working at Met Life.
  • I have a cat that lives with me named “Smudge”.

I always tell everyone that my apartment, my home, is my own “piece of heaven.”

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Jackie's Story

I’m Jackie Peckoff, my whole life I had been a very productive person.  Until the age of 32, I had a 21-year work history as an office manager in the textiles industry.  Like you, I loved the freedom and feeling of being productive and being surrounded by friends and family – but imagine losing those friends and being told that you will never work again?

I first “officially” became ill when I was 32 years of age.  Although looking back, I remember times as a young girl feeling depressed and withdrawing to my bedroom.  Those feelings never quite went away.  The pain and anguish I felt was overbearing.  We all have days when we feel down and don’t want to get out from under the sheets in the morning – but imagine feeling such despair that those sheets feel like the weight of concrete?  It got so bad that I would do anything to get out from under the concrete weight, so bad that I would rather die than feel this pain.  I attempted suicide a number of times before I was first hospitalized.

Luckily I survived and returned to work but as the years passed I was hospitalized once again, but this time things were different.  I was told by the doctors that I would never work again, and that I would spend the rest of my life in the hospital where I was chemically restrained and where electric shock treatment was a legitimate form of therapy.  My life could have ended that day, but I had a work history and couldn’t imagine not being productive.  In order to leave the hospital you had to have a plan and I heard other patients taking about Fountain House, the first ICCD program.  That was the first day of the rest of my life.  One of the first things I noticed was that there were no guards at the door gangling their keys ready to lock me in.  Plus I was surprised to learn that I could choose my own staff worker.  At the hospital you had to take whoever you were given and with my luck I was always given Nurse Ratchit!  But here I was treated with dignity and respect.  I was wanted needed and expected to participate.  As the years passed I became more and more involved with the program and regained my confidence as a result I was able to return to work and meet new friends.  I was soon able to travel around the world and tell my story. 

Now that I’m retired from work, I spend a lot of my time at the ICCD and I am proud to say that I have now been a member of this global movement for over 30 years.

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Edith's Story

My name is Edith and this is my story. 

I was born in Jamaica in the late 50’s but by the time I was a teenager I had lived in England and then America.  Those years were unhappy times filled with abuse and sexual assault.  In my later years I started to hear voices and worse still I started having these sensations that someone was touching me – I felt each muscle being prodded and poked and the voices in my head wouldn’t stop.  It was the worst feeling in the world.  I felt totally alone.  As the years passed I managed to get by.  I didn’t know I had a mental illness, I just knew that my mind wouldn’t switch off and there was nothing I could do about it. 

When I moved to America, where I went to college and later to work I was able to make a good living, but then feelings of anxiety triggered my depression and the voices.  I couldn’t sleep, my mind and body was not my own.  I became very paranoid and kept thinking that I would be raped again.  I even thought that people on TV were talking to me.  This is the first time I went to get help.  My doctor prescribed Valium for my anxiety but didn’t acknowledge my other symptoms.  It didn’t help.  Instead I started to lose jobs and at my most vulnerable point I took an overdose and tried to end my life twice. 

After many terrible years, many of those being homeless, my luck finally changed when I was at Columbia University Shelter – they told me about an ICCD program here in New York, they suggested I visit them as the shelter only operated through the night and I needed somewhere to go during the day.

I remember the day in 1992 so clearly, I walked into the beautiful building that had a spiral staircase and huge chandeliers, and people were smiling!  A wonderful lady in housing called Bonnie Beam took one look at me and said – you’re not going back to the shelter, we have a room for you.  This was the day that my life began.  They helped me find my own apartment and introduced me to the program.  I would come in 5 days a week.  My old life started to diminish – it didn’t matter anymore because people here loved me.  I got support and developed relationships.  I even started going out to work again! A brand new life had begun.

The program saved my life over and over again.  They are my family, friends and now my employer.  I am proud to tell you that I am now a staff worker at an ICCD certified program.  I hope my story has helped you to understand that I am among millions of people living with mental illness and I am just one example of the thousands of lives that are being changed here at the ICCD.  I was living in darkness for many years.  I started experiencing the light when the ICCD program opened its doors for me.

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Michael's Story

My name is Michael and this is my own personal experience with mental illness.

I was born in Brooklyn and was just like every other young person, of my age; I enjoyed writing and playing sports.  I found that my interest in writing allowed me to attend college and leave with a Degree in Education.

Upon leaving school, I enjoyed a 17-year work history in the insurance industry as an analyst, without problems and with great success.

However, when I was 34, I started experiencing feelings of intense paranoia, I thought that my coworkers were conspiring against me and trying to force me out of my job.  This continued and eventually I was unable to function at work, also my family life began to suffer too.  Feelings of low self worth, depression, paranoia and suicide occupied my every thought.  At this time I wasn’t sleeping, my mind would just race.  When I did fall asleep I would have vivid dreams that I was being chased – I just wanted it to stop, I was so afraid. 

Eventually my employers couldn’t support me any longer and my family life really started to suffer.  The medication I was prescribed at the time just made me feel even more suicidal.  In 1995 my life as I knew it came to a sudden and disturbing end.  I lost my wife my son and my job.  I lost my whole life. 

At my lowest point I was at a loss and I just wanted it all to end.  But I remembered hearing about an ICCD certified program while I was at my last job.  I made the effort to join the program and was amazed!  The first thing I noticed which was very different to the other mental health programs I had tried was that there was an equal relationship between the staff and members.  I immediately took notice of the side-by-side nature and lack of staff/member roles.

I am pleased to tell you that since I have been involved with the ICCD program I haven’t had any hospitalizations and my medication has been stable.  I have found a new more fulfilling life.  If you want to imagine what it must feel like to live with a mental illness, take your worst fear and multiply that by a 10,000 – take that feeling and believe that there is no way out and that you don’t have a soul to turn to.  You fear everyone, even those who try to help you.  It’s your worst nightmare.  But there’s hope.  I am a different person now, and with each day I look forward to the next, my life is worth living and my next goal is to return to work.  I know that through the ICCD that will happen.

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Eleisha's Story

I would like to talk with you for a moment about possibility and worth, and how they correlate with each other. If

something is deemed worth a lot then its possibility is most likely higher then if its worth is deemed less. The possibilities began to fade as worth becomes lesser and lesser. I would like to demonstrate this for you with this dollar bill.

Who would want this bill if I crumple it? What if I stomp all over it with my dirty shoes, now imagine if I spit on it, I drag it through the mud, even worse through animal feces, How many of you out there could honestly say you would pick up this dollar bill after all that? I honestly can not say that I would. Has its worth changed?  The societal value is still one dollar but who sees that since it has been through so much and has so much cover up? The possibility for this dollar has been pretty much elevated because its worth is no longer recognized by society. It still has the ability to pay for needs and to build interest in a bank however without help from someone who is willing to look beyond the dirt and cover up it will never make it.

My story is similar to this dollar I had so much dirt on my outer walls, I felt there was no possibility for me to grow. I deemed myself worthless as did the majority of society. I was the dollar bill lying at the side of the road in the mud covered in animal feces. As I continuously tried to build my own worth and possibility for the future I was kicked and spit upon by the painful stigma that surrounded living with a mental illness.

Just as I was ready to lay there in the mud and be washed away in the rain, I found something new. A place where the stigma dissipated into the walls of ability and strength, this place helped me realize my worth.

The place I speak of is one of the many International Centers for Clubhouse Development certified Clubhouses.  It is with the support of the many members and staff of the Clubhouse that I was able to feel my worthiness in this life and develop the many possibilities that I now seek.

My life has changed drastically since joining the Clubhouse,  possibilities have opened up which I participate in, on a day to day basis they are acting as co-chair on the Utah Clubhouse Network,  Having the honor of being Secretary of the Alliance House Board of Directors, Participating on many board committees, Participating in the Work-Ordered Day, Speaking on behalf of Clubhouse at many conferences, going to school to become a social worker and being a respected member whom many come to for advice.

I truly could have never seen my life where it is at now 3 years ago, I am at a point where I have achieved a dream of giving back to others. This is a possibility I never thought I could have; I never thought I was worthy to be seen as an equal. However; here I stand before you an equal with as much worth and potential as you. I give you all great honor and respect for being here today because it is you and the ICCD that pulls people like me out of the mud supports us in finding our worth and potential in this life.

Although we all have to go through life’s turmoil’s there is no need for people to suffer in silence, alone, or to be tossed in the mud ridiculed by stigma. People like myself, Miles, and Nicholas’s son as well as the millions world wide who are in our hearts today. Solely because they have a mental illness, this is a battle that can be won with support, understanding, and empowerment all of which the ICCD Clubhouses provide for its members on a day to day basis. Words can not describe how I feel at this very moment, the gratitude I have to my Clubhouse in Salt Lake city, Utah for saving my life, and to the ICCD for making it possible. I am Eleisha Marie Hewes, I have a mental illness, I am a member of a Clubhouse, I will succeed.

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Lowell's Story

From a very young age I had a problem interacting with people, but it wasn’t until elementary school that I was diagnosed with both a learning problem and a “psychiatric problem.” The term “psychiatric problem” was never further defined. I was simply labeled and left on my own to cope. This foreshadowed the way my mental illness would affect me for a majority of my life; ever-present, but unaware of what it was or how to get help.

Throughout school I was consistently ostracized and never managed to make friends. I struggled academically and received the lowest SAT scores in my school. My parents decided to send me to Jr. College for two years to better prepare me for college. It was here that I blossomed, for the first time. I received good grades and thrived on the school’s swim team. I even made it to the Jr. Olympics! For the first time, I found things I was really good at and enjoyed doing them.

I was accepted into Monmouth University where I continued to swim and do well in school. I made friends and appeared as every other student. However, my mental illness was still very much present. I was given multiple diagnoses including both Schizoaffective and Bipolar disorder. I was constantly depressed and didn’t feel adequate.

After college my mental illness only grew worse. The pressure was considerably higher and I just didn’t know how to manage the stress. I got a great job in the entertainment business. I never thought my work was sufficient, and continually felt overwhelmed. I plummeted into an even deeper depression when I finally lost my job.

Unaware of assistance for my illness, I continued to self medicate with cocaine. Partying every night of the week became the norm. My happiness revolved around being high, and if I wasn’t I was miserable.  This continued for the next ten years. The combination of my mental illness and addiction was so crushing, that I couldn’t stop. Life became so dark that I intentionally tried to end my life with pills. 

My self medicating habits finally caught up with me. I was hospitalized and diagnosed with double Pneumonia. I realized I had to change my life style dramatically.  I quit cocaine cold turkey and bought a house in Pennsylvania. Still plagued by mental illness, and unable to self medicate, my recovery was very arduous.  I was trying to better myself, but being sober only seemed to exacerbate my depression. Through multiple phone conversations, a good friend from Chicago picked up on my bipolar symptoms. He came to Pennsylvania to assess the situation and immediately made me promise to see a psychiatrist. The therapy did not provide much relief.

Things only grew worse when my father died. This type of tragedy was supposed to stir great emotion, but my illness was too far gone to allow me to outwardly morn. However, his death did register on a subconscious level which furthered my suicidal thoughts. I was unresponsive to medication and all other forms of therapy. My Doctor resorted to ECT/ Shock Therapy. ECT has come along way from the 50’s when patients were treated subhuman. ECT was the best therapy for me as it brought me out of my darkness.   The treatment helped, but the battle was far from over.  Full recovery would be a long process that I could not do alone. In the hospital, I was told about Twin Rivers Clubhouse.

I became a member and immediately saw a light at the end of the tunnel. In the past I was not aware that there was help for my problems. Twin Rivers made me realize that not only was there help, but it was constant and without judgment. People with similar problems could come together and talk out their issues. This was a complete 180 for me; I went from not knowing there was help to finding help and a second family.

While the support system at Twin Rivers was a start, I still wasn’t able to maintain stability. My mother and aunt asked me to move back home and proposed partial hospitalization. At first I resented this, but soon realized they were right. The hospitalization helped me to gain closure from the past. Finally I felt that I was ready to reclaim my life back in NY.

Once I became a member of Fountain House, I felt that my feet were finally cemented. Things became more natural for me. I appreciated the organization, and felt like I found a guidebook that allowed me to flourish. The work order day instilled a sense of purpose for me.

Upon moving back to NY I also became a substitute teacher. I continue to do this because it has raised my confidence level and helped me move forward with future career plans. I want to become a Special Ed teacher.

I am currently living in Fountain House’s housing and eager to move into my own apartment. I am about to start a new position in the Transitional Employment Program. I realize that I have to take one day at a time. I still have relapses, but the important thing to remember is that I am not a mental illness. I am a person that has dreams hopes and aspirations and the confidence that I will continue to succeed.  Now I know that there is help available. My life does not have to revolve around self medication and constant darkness. 

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Our Story: Maureen Clottey

I still vividly remember that day, some 30 years ago, when my parents called me into their bedroom, and asked me to stop arguing with my big brother Anthony.  They explained that his erratic behaviour wasn’t his fault and asked me to be patient with him because he wasn’t well.  They told me they were taking him to the hospital, and that everything would be okay.

Anthony was admitted to the psychiatric hospital the next day, and I was confused and devastated.  He was 15 years old.  You see, Anthony is the second of 5 siblings. We were closest in age and we used to play together a lot.  We lived in an upper middle class neighborhood, and life was good. Anthony was so much fun to be around.  He’d come up with all kinds of games.  He was a born leader, and when we were little I’d always follow his lead because he never let me get into trouble… he always took the blame for all our escapades. 

After he was diagnosed with schizophrenia everything changed. Initially, it was not too bad, but as he grew older, it became a struggle to get him to take his medication.  After a while, he would stop taking them, he would get progressively worse and then he’d end up back in hospital.  It was a really stressful time for all of us

Despite his illness, he managed to graduate from high school and completed agricultural college with a diploma in agriculture.  He got a job as an agricultural extension officer in the Ministry of Agriculture in Ghana.  After a while, he had to be let go because he could not function properly.

Over the years, Anthony has become only a shadow of that fun-loving, mischievous, smart little boy that he was.  He still lives at home, and has never been married.  He cannot live independently because for now, he cannot hold down a job.  He has few friends, and his social life is virtually non-existent.

Background

There was, and still is, a lot of stigma attached to mental illness in Ghana.  We couldn’t talk openly about our brother’s illness.  The hospitals are overcrowded and the infrastructure is poor, and it was always so heart-rending and painful to visit him there. Whenever he was discharged, we would look around for a rehabilitation program that would help re-integrate him back into society.  We found nothing suitable.

We live with our spouses in four different countries; the United States, Canada, Britain and Ghana, and we all work full-time.  Through a sheer determination to help our brother, we invested our time and resources in our quest for ways to help our brother become more independent. 

After a while, we decided to set up something that would meet our brother’s needs, as well as the needs of people like him and families like ours that are living with mental illness. In our search, we found the ICCD Website and were thrilled because it sounded exactly like what Anthony needed!  We contacted ICCD, applied for, and were invited to participate in the new Clubhouse training seminar.  We did and were thrilled!  We are positive that this will work for us!

Vision

We see RosePep House as a safe haven that provides an environment of belonging, dignity, hope and purpose where people dealing with mental illness will obtain opportunities and support to re-integrate into society.

RosePep Today

Today, thanks to ICCD, there is hope for our brother and many more like him in Ghana.  RosePep House has a committed Working Group consisting of individuals who share in our Clubhouse vision.  We have a dynamic mentor who continues to be one of our biggest fans and provides us with invaluable support.  We already have our Clubhouse building in a prime location in Accra.  We have even identified an Executive Director who believes in our vision and is ready and willing to work! 

Next Steps

In the coming months we will be setting up our Advisory Board, securing funds, completing improvements to and furnishing our Clubhouse and hiring staff. We are looking forward to opening our doors in September 2009.

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For more information, please see Mental Health Organizations and Reference Library.

 

 

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