Dave Shaver's Story
When I think about my life today, I think about Johnny Nash's song "I
can see clearly now, the rain has gone," because ten years ago, my life
In 1992, I was working at a shipyard and major depression hit me hard.
I had no idea what was wrong with me, but I couldn't do anything or even
get out of bed. My girlfriend called 911 because she thought I was dying.
She knew I needed help, so she went to court and got an order for me to
be evaluated for depression. The police came and told me they had to take
me to the crisis unit.
During the ten days I was in the mental health center, the only visitors
I saw were my girlfriend and my best friend. No one in my immediate family
visited me. When I was discharged, I was told to make an appointment for
a case manager and a psychiatrist to continue my treatment. My psychiatrist
was an excellent practitioner: he was very thorough and really got to know
me. After about a year, I was on the right medication and enrolled in Adult
The first day I went to Adult Day Treatment, I felt like a shadow. I
didn't know anybody and nobody knew me. I was still like a zombie because
of my medication. I was led around like a sheep. During that period, I
learned all there was to know about grooming and hygiene. When my medication
started to work, I began to come out of the haze.
The mental health center had what they called a drop-in center, a room
that the day treatment program used as a living room during their hours.
I was hired to run the drop-in center. I scheduled activities and waited
for the masses to come. Around that time, I was asked to join the Advocacy
Center in Tallahassee. Shortly after that, the president of the Florida
Drop-in Center Association asked me if I wanted to join them. I became
popular all of a sudden.
But my peers did not want to visit a drop-in center that was a day treatment
during the day. The drop-in center felt the same as day treatment, because
we were at the same location with the same faces. Then, a new day treatment
supervisor was hired. She and I did not see eye to eye, so she fired me.
I was so angry that I called the mental health division of the Florida
Department of Children and Families and told them what happened. I asked
them how to get funding for a "true" drop-in center, and they told me I
needed to incorporate and have a board of directors, create a proposal,
and find a sponsor and a location. At that time, I was unemployed, so I
bought a copier from the Mental Health Association and made an office in
my living room. After several meetings with my peers, I found people to
serve on our board. I worked night and day meeting with my peers and writing
our proposal. We incorporated and got our first contract three months later.
From a vacant office building, we created a drop-in center, which became
a home away from home for about 600 of my peers.
Today, our organization is funded by the Florida Department of Children
and Families, the local government, and private donations. We operate two
drop-in centers and an HIV/AIDS network, and are planning a clubhouse for
our community of peers who want to get back into the workforce. We have
big plans in the near future. I am still with The Advocacy Center and in
2003 I was elected to the Mental Health Planning Council for the Department
of Children and Families.
Today, I still take my medication. I see a counselor when I need to talk.
I have an attorney to handle legal things, and I have a built-in support
system of hundreds of peers. I am so happy today because I know that I
am not alone anymore.