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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Department of Health and Human Services

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration Center for Mental Health Services

Last Updated: 6/22/2012

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My Story

The personal accounts found here are true stories of real people and their experiences with mental health challenges or substance use problems. These people have confronted prejudice and discrimination, but with help and hope are in recovery or know someone who has experienced recovery. They have chosen to share their stories to inspire others and help people understand that these challenges and problems are real, common, and treatable—and that recovery is possible.

A severe lack of awareness and understanding often creates misperceptions about persons with mental heath and substance use disorders. These stories aim to correct those misperceptions by putting a face on mental health and showing that it is a part of all of our lives.

To share your experiences, submit a story and consent form.

Jan Anastasato’s Story

In high school, drawing the shades and listening to Rachmaninoff’s “Isle of the Dead” on occasion could have been the beginning of depression or just teen angst. Read more >>

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Natalie Jeanne Champagne’s Story

Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, at the age of 12, I spent weekends playing baseball and weeknights playing soccer. Read more >>

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Kevin Coyle “A Deaf Recovery Story”

Losing control of your mind, of your very being is a scary thing. It impacts and influences everything: how you act and what you believe. I never thought it would happen to me. Read more >>

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Dawn’s Story

I was in my fifth year of recovery from substance abuse when I found out there was something else going on with me. Looking back, I can see that it was depression that I hoped to hide from in using drugs and alcohol. Read more >>

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Deanne’s Story

I am in recovery from mental illness, and I believe that giving back to my community has helped me tremendously in the recovery process. Read more >>

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Mael Dinnell’s Story

It started with a whisper. Soon intrusive voices were yelling at me. “You deserved every bit of it.” I was scared to go into the shower. People were shouting at me from cars and bikes: “We’ll get you!” Read more >>

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Robert Forrey’s Story

I had a psychotic break in 1979 and was diagnosed with manic-depressive disease (a brain disorder) when I was 25 years of age. Unwilling to take ownership of a serious mental illness I continued my life without treatment. I lost my family (a wife and 2 small boys, ages 4 and 5), my job and the house we had bought the year before. I was unable to manage my life and self-medicated. Read more >>

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Sandy Goble’s Story

I am a 60-year old nurse with bipolar disorder forced into early retirement by a group of educated professionals who should have known better. I want to put a face on mental illness, but more importantly, fight the stigma. Read more >>

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Randolph C. Hack’s Story

I began having problems when I was in high school. My father was in the Army and we moved around a lot. I was the victim of cruel teasing and harassment, and I did not go to my junior or senior prom. My mother took me to see an Army psychiatrist in 1962 and he knew there was something wrong but, in those days, there was little they could do to help. Read more >>

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Sam Harris’s Story

At the age of 14, I started having serious hallucinations and blackouts. I’m half African American and half Native American, and I didn’t try to get help because, in both communities, they called that “going to the white man.’ But I became an outcast, because my symptoms got so bad that none of my friends wanted to have anything to do with me. Read more >>

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Karin Heck’s Story

At the age of 21 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This was after many years of drinking myself into oblivion to manage the symptoms. After my diagnosis, my family disowned me. They felt that my coming out as having bipolar disorder tarnished the family name. Read more >>

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Thomas Hicks’ Story

My life started out like any other traumatized child. I was born to alcoholic parents who at times could be unbearably physically, mentally, and verbally abusive. Read more >>

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Ralph Hoffman’s Story

I owe my recovery to having been employed continuously from 1966 to 1986. However, it was job stress that led to my first hospitalization. Read more >>

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Adam Holbrook’s Story

In early 1974, I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Since that time, I have authored two books, Dear Mom and Shining On, which are chronicles of my life as a homeless person with mental illness. Read more >>

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Jeffrey Holland’s Story

The man sat on the curb of the sidewalk in the burning midday sun. His animated movements and the earnestness in his voice reflected the intense concern of his conversation. Read more >>

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Jackie’s Story

I remember being in 8th grade and even the thought of moving on to high school would send me into a panic. I tried talking to my parents about it, but they told me it was just high school jitters and that everyone gets them. Read more >>

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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. Read more >>

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Celinda Jungheim’s Story

When I was committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital in California for yet another suicide attempt, after rotating in and out of both private and State hospitals … I certainly felt hopeless and thought there was no life for me. Read more >> (en español)

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Diana Kern’s Story

Twenty-four years ago, after the birth of my daughter when I was 26, I was diagnosed with a mental illness and hospitalized in Dallas. This was the beginning of 15 years of hospital stays, lasting from a week to more than a year. Treatment teams diagnosed me with everything from postpartum psychosis to schizophrenia. Read more >>

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George Kotwitz’s Story

I am 67 years old, and I have been married for 43 years to the most wonderful woman in the world. I have created a living hell for her during my illness but she has stuck by my side. We have three daughters and four grandsons. Read more >>

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Carmen Lee’s Story

I know firsthand about recovery after spending 20 years, collectively, in institutions as a result of severe depression and suicidal behavior. Read more >>

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Lynn’s Story

In my teen years, I had some anger issues, but never identified them as mental health problems. The turning point for me was toward the end of an unhealthy relationship, when a door was locked in my face and I decided to put a fist through it. Read more >>

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John Jay McDonald’s Story

I’m one of those lucky people who are very much recovered in a conventional sense. I’ve been rock-solid stable on the same medications for nine years, with no mental health problems whatsoever. There hasn’t been a whisper of a voice, not a hint of paranoia or anxiety; and my socio-phobia, well, that has just disappeared. Read more >>

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Mitch’s Story

At age 22, I had my first bout of depression. I didn’t know what triggered it and I struggled through it on my own. After the third episode, I went to a psychiatrist and was put on medication. Read more >>

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Victoria Molta’s Story

I have lived with a severe mental illness, schizoaffective disorder, for over 20 years. It began in college with depression, psychosis and anxiety that were triggered by the stress of studies and an abusive boyfriend. I believe that the loneliness of living with a mental illness was the most difficult part of it. My family distanced themselves from me and, through subsequent moves to different states, I virtually cut myself off from my past—my family and the friends I grew up with. In the end, I had no place to live. Finally, in l986, I was flown to Connecticut in a drugged state after being released from a mental hospital to live with my mother. Read more >>

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Jen Pape’s Story

Imagine finding out you have a chronic, debilitating illness which has to actively be maintained for you to be able to function at even part of the capacity that you know you are actually capable of. Now imagine on top of having to cope with the stress of your illness and its treatment, you also have to face social rejection and stigmatization because of your illness.

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Linda Paxton’s Story

Circumstances beyond my control led to my mental break. We were living in a 600-square-foot house with our three kids. Read more >>

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Rosita’s Story

My depression started during my marriage. One day, my husband took everything and left. He took $9000 from our savings. I didn’t have any financial support or means to support myself. Then my depression became much worse. Read more >> (en español)

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Jeffrey Ryan’s Story

I was raised in Long Island, NY. I was a relatively active kid, and I had difficulty sitting still in school—I was bored and did much better with hands-on learning. When I was in my early teens, I started to hear a voice giving me commands. Read more >> (en español)

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Frank Scassellati’s Story

I have had a mental illness since childhood, in the early 1960s; but I received no treatment for it due to a lack of mental health services for children and adolescents in my area. Read more >>

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Elvira E. Sears’s Story

I thought my life was just beginning. I’d finished college a few years earlier, and was working on a research project. Then, symptoms started appearing, and my life came to a standstill. Read more >>

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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 was stormy. Read more >>

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Bill Schneider’s Story

I grew up in a normal family, and I was a bright kid—I.Q. of 140, a straight “A” student. But while I was in college, my concentration began to disappear. I began to hear voices telling me that I was nobody, that I was never going to make it in life. Read more >>

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Risdon Slate’s Story

During two weeks in 1986, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, forced to resign from my position as a U. S. Probation Officer (USPO), hospitalized, and abandoned by my wife, who subsequently divorced me. Read more >>

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Alice Tsai’s Story

As a Chinese-American, I have always been a high achiever. However, when I graduated from college and had not gotten into medical school or gotten a full-time job, I felt like a failure. I returned to my parents’ home to work at the neighborhood Walgreens. Read more >>

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Sr. Ann Catherine Veirstahler’s Story

The story of my lifelong struggle with mental illness has been featured in both newspapers and magazines. Read more >>

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Angela Vickers’s Story

After my first and only known manic episode, in 1988, my husband’s attorney told him he must file for divorce to protect our young children. Read more >>

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Jen Wand’s Story

To look at my life now, you’d never guess what was in my past. I graduated from Boston University with a grade point average of 3.8, lived in Japan for a year, and am now working with a public relations firm in the Nation’s capital. But the truth is, I nearly didn’t graduate from high school. Read more >>

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Adrienne Young’s Story

I am 27 years old and the mother of a beautiful five-year-old son. I am a daughter, a sister, and a board member of my neighborhood association. I am the executive director of a non-profit organization. I also have been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, personality disorder, severe reoccurring depression and anxiety. Read more >>

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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.