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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Department of Health and Human Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

Last Updated: 7/7/2008

SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center)


Jacquelin's Story

In the spring of 1998, my world came crashing down. I lost my home, my job, my car, my mind, and almost my life.

I was hospitalized for the first time in March of that year. Diagnosis: major depression with suicidal ideation. I was put on medication and assigned a psychiatrist and a therapist. After this first hospitalization I would fight with myself to stay out, but every eight months I'd be back in the hospital. The second time was a longer stay, and upon being discharged I was put on 13 medications.

I decided that my third hospitalization (when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder) was going to be my last. Trying to function with the help of medications, a therapist, and sheer force of will, I was able to stay out after that.

For a long time, I could feel my illness inside my head: a dark little creature that I had built a wall around. It was waiting for me to let my guard down so it could escape and wreak havoc. It took a long time for me to banish this monster, but I am finally free.

The first step toward freedom was when I reluctantly agreed to participate in a program called "Stepping Stones Clubhouse," and I am forever glad I did! I came into the program a scared little rabbit; I couldn't look anyone in the face and had no confidence in myself. With great encouragement, I reluctantly tried doing tasks on the computer, and I was thanked and praised for my accomplishments. With time (three years), I began to see and eventually believe that I was intelligent and capable and that my work - as well as I - was valued.

A small candle of hope began to burn, and I started to think about going back to work. It soon turned into a bonfire of belief in myself.

I started work at the clubhouse as a part-time peer trainer, teaching computer skills. My confidence grew by leaps and bounds. Six years after being diagnosed with a mental illness, I am now working full time as a psychiatric rehabilitation caseworker, helping others understand their illnesses and work towards their own recovery. I am also a mentor and someone my fellow members want to emulate.

In addition, I am on the Governor's Advisory Committee on Personal Care Homes and the secretary of the Pennsylvania Clubhouse Coalition. I advocate for myself and others; and, for fun, I work part-time as a DJ. I am proof that it is possible to survive and regain a productive life.

The clubhouse has helped me find my voice, and I am active and involved, as well as more assertive. I am down to two medications: Lamictal, a mood stabilizer, and Concerta, for ADHD.

I have come through the fire a stronger, better person. I am on my way to achieving my level of greatness and helping others achieve theirs. With encouragement and support, everyone can.


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This Web site was developed under contract with the Office of Consumer Affairs in SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. The views, opinions, and content provided on this Web site do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or HHS. The resources listed in this Web site are not all-inclusive and inclusion on this Web site does not constitute an endorsement by SAMHSA or HHS.