During years of scrutiny and bullying while in special education, Michael found comfort in his relationship with his older brother. Though Michael and his parents would endure several diagnoses', years passed before severe mental illnesses were revealed. Michael and his brother had developed a closeness and trust that had helped them both cope with and manage the realities of Michael's mental illnesses. His brother eventually got married and moved far away. In Michael's mind he took a part of him with him. For the first time in years, the two were separated. Michael's confidant, teacher, counselor and only real friend was gone. There was no one to defend him against bullies regarding his illness and there was no one to talk to about its challenges anymore. Michael entered a severe state of depression. Sleeping all day, little conversation and not eating became the norm. Michael felt betrayed and abandoned.
To help him cope, Michael's parents enrolled him in CFI programming. "I did not trust anyone, I did not want to talk to anyone or even get out of bed." Michael kept to himself most days while in programming and refused to participate in most activities. Weeks passed and Michael began to form friendships. "I started to like CFI, the people were nice and I didn't miss my brother as much." Michael entered and completed CFI's Work Opportunities programming and is now employed. "It felt so good to have a job, that I treated my Mom and Dad to dinner with my first pay check" "CFI helped me to trust again, I learned that I can recover and be happy". When asked what his goals were now, Michael responded, "I want to get a girlfriend, an apartment and to learn how to drive a car."
Diagnosed with severe depression and bipolar disorder, the sudden deaths of immediate family members led to a series of actions that created "I can't deal with life moments." Tameka connected with CFI and is now a Certified Peer Specialist and is both surrounded by support and provides support for those on their journey towards recovery.
"The most difficult part of my journey has been the awareness and acceptance of my illness. I am learning to control the things that feed my illness."
After dropping out of school at 16 years old, Tameka did not see the value in expressing her emotions. She carried them deep inside-unwilling and unable to share them with those who cared and loved her. Multiple hospitalizations and suicide attempts led her to believe that her illness was due to a character weakness and her lack of faith.
After 15 years of reflection, treatment and self discovery, Tameka is stronger and empowered. She helps to break down barriers for individuals living with mental illnesses as well as educates others about the conditions and circumstances that impede recovery and create stigma. She is energized by the connections that she makes with people as they come to grips with their own misunderstandings, shame, guilt and misconceptions. She states that, "I am often saddened by the many people living with mental illnesses that often wear masks to camouflage their true feelings or their illness itself." She accredits CFI with providing a platform for her to share and grow. "Although I live with the subtle insecurity of a possible relaspe, I am confident that the assistance of CFI will provide a haven of comfort and support if and when a storm emerges."
Community Friendship Inc.
85 Renaissance Parkway, NE
Atlanta, GA 30308