Most people want to live a meaningful life, knowing their actions make a difference in the world. People often find that kind of meaning by helping others.
Meet Katie, a Guild client who went from not being able to help herself to find joy and meaning in helping others.
Recently, Katie had the experience of helping someone at her job. She told us, “For many people, this may not seem like a big deal, but for me, it’s huge. There was a time in my life where I thought helping someone else was completely out of the question because, at that time, I could barely help myself.”
Katie struggled with her mental illness for most of her life. She reflected, “Despite being raised in an optimal upbringing by two very loving parents…depression, anxiety, and severe insecurity made my life very difficult from a very young age.”
The juxtaposition between Katie’s external life and what was happening inside her led her to a heartbreaking conclusion, “I was broken.”
Feeling certain she was “broken,” Katie felt misunderstood and angry as a teenager. About this time in her life, Katie said, “I hated myself. I hated how I felt, and I hated that no matter what I did, it wouldn’t go away.” The self-hatred persisted. Katie attempted suicide eight times between the ages of 14 and 35.
At 27 years old, Katie had to make a tough decision. Knowing the severity of her mental illness, Katie chose to allow her baby’s father to care for their daughter full time, which was devastating.
At the darkest point in her life, in the hospital and knowing that she would return to homelessness and unmanaged mental illness if something didn’t change, Katie met Joan, a Case Manager with Guild. At first, Katie was skeptical, having struggled with 20 years of mental illness and numerous failed interventions. But something about Joan was different. Katie told us, “She [Joan] didn’t judge me for where I was at. She was kind and respectful, and I could tell she actually wanted to help. It wasn’t just her job.”
Katie began working with Joan and the team at Guild. The trust between Katie and Joan helped transform Katie’s focus. “I trusted her so much, I stopped worrying about how to do it all by myself…and I started to focus on the things that really mattered—how to manage my illness so I could function on a day-to-day basis.”
Katie went to a treatment program, while Joan helped find her permanent housing. Funding from Guild helped Katie secure an apartment with a deposit.
Three years after meeting Joan, Katie still lives in the same apartment where she spends time with her daughter. She has completed training as a Peer Support Specialist, started her own cleaning business, and hopes to one day help others with mental illness by employing them. When Katie reflects on her life, she can also see how her lived experience with mental illness has made her a more compassionate person. “My mental illness has taken a lot from me, but it has also given me a lot too. I have compassion now and understanding for people that I never had. I have patience, and I have learned to appreciate things and people in a new way.”
While Katie is in a much more stable place today, it’s not because her mental illness disappeared. With help from Joan and the team at Guild, she’s learned to manage her symptoms and struggles with “greater ease.” And when life gets particularly challenging? Katie said, “I know I have got a team of great people there to support me and help me figure it out.”
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