The Biggest Challenges Can Provide the Brightest Lights

Carole Hayes Collier; Syracuse, NY

Has a mental health provider ever told you that you could reach a personal goal despite your psychiatric diagnosis (for example, education, career, independenthousing, relationship, children, etc.)?

Yes. A great counselor I had let me be in the lead and I would simply consult and work on getting old and negative messages out of my life with him. He would try therapeutic practices with me but at the very least it was compassion and a willingness to see my gifts and support my challenges that helped me……he helped me stay out of the hospital and risked his reputation more than once by getting me out of a commitment that had been perpetrated on me. He was able to appreciate my humor and stuck with me at the most suicidal times and through medical hospitals where he had no privileges. He didn’t prescribe or seek to have anyone else prescribe anything for me and simply helped me walk through a lot of old and painful memories to pack them away.

During your mental health care, have you often felt hopeful about your chance of getting better?

Yes. When I am able to be an activist and be successful in staying out of the control of the mental health system, I know I can live the life I want to and I am able to…..

Has a mental health provider ever told you that you could not reach a personal goal because of your psychiatric diagnosis (for example, education, career, independent housing, relationship, children, etc.)?

Yes. Early on my records reported that I was unable to do any job, concentrate enough to go to school, be in any relationships or do anything without total supervision. Also was told I would need to live in the hospital for the rest of my life.

Can you give examples showing you have gotten better from a mental or emotional problem, such as how you are doing well or accomplishing goals you have chosen?

I have a great career and can retire but chose to continue working and will continue activism long after I stop being paid. I have over a 25 year marriage with moments of rapture, many and varied joys, some transitory pains and a willingness to step through the future no matter what it brings. I have a great sense of humor that can carry me through much and have been gifted with wonderful friendships and incredible life experiences including adventures in travel and at home and getting to know some incredible people on a deeper level than I would have dreamed. I have been able to more deeply explore dimensions of the world that would have scared me in my youth and am happy to be me!

Tell us what recovery means to you. How would you define recovery from mental health or emotional problems in your own words?

Recovery was a process whereby I faced the demons that managed my life and made me feel like killing myself for being such a horrible human being. By confronting these successfully I was able to use my activism as a woman and psychiatric survivor as a platform for living a life I love and appreciate. I finished a Masters Degree, have been married over 25 years and have had a wonderful work life I have found to be meaningful.

If you could send a brief message to someone receiving mental health care today who is feeling hopeless about getting better, what would you say?

For all the anguish and pain I have experienced in life, I have also found the roots of hope for getting through anything. I am resilient and I do believe we all are and if we can find our gift in this world, it will serve to sustain each of us AND the world. May you have at least one friend who believes in you as I have had and a purpose for living which for me is to change the wrongs in the world, no matter how grandiose that sounds!!! I believe that we who have had the biggest challenges can provide the brightest lights of hope for those who come after us. Without realizing it, I got old and can look back and see wonderful things and people who have shared my journey and can also look forward to meeting new and renewed friends and continue my quest to work for change for the good of the world.