It’s not often that we can publish personal stories of the people we serve. That’s why we were super excited when Leslie agreed to share her story because we wanted you to know that when we say you’re making a difference, it’s so very true! 

I do want to mention that while Leslie mentions my name in the story below, this came about through connections with our local church, community, and most importantly through YOU! My dear friend Cindi has a special clothing closet called, “Carpenter’s Blessing.” Between her ministry and P82’s benevolence fund, we can partner together to serve people from time to time who may be in crisis. 

Thank you for being a part of Leslie’s story and loving people right here in our community through your financial partnership and prayers.

-With gratitude, 

Deborah Geesling

Leslie’s Story

My name is Leslie, and when I came out of the state hospital with a new diagnosis of bipolar I and now deemed SMI, I was terrified and alone. I was placed in a sober living home and the house manager was a nurse. I asked her if there was any help to get clothes or any personal items as I didn’t even have a bra or toothbrush. The only thing I had in my possession was my hospital gown, sleeping shorts and a T-shirt. The nurse gave me a phone number of a woman she knew that helps the SMI community. I called and a woman answered by the name of Deborah, and it was hard for me to ask for help. Her kind voice listened to me and she asked for a list of items I needed and my clothing sizes. We hung up and two hours later I had 3 bags for me on the front porch. I took the full bags into my room and cried when I opened them… I had never been so grateful to see a toothbrush, bra, pants, and deodorant. And there were even small items like hair bands and fuzzy socks. I still remember that moment very vividly because there was no one left for me, but this kind woman and her ministry. I thought “at least someone out there cares about me” and for a moment I didn’t feel so alone. 

My behavioral health and mental health journey begin there. Over the next three years, I discovered what it’s like to be seriously mentally ill and that education and self-advocacy would ensure that I could recover in a broken system. I went on to utilize what resources I could find and ask for help each step of the way. The department of child safety would intercede to protect my child from her own mother who was mentally ill. I took part in my own recovery and utilized my own behavioral health services to change me into a stable and functional part of society. DCS closed the case against me and I was awarded my child back. Just because I am seriously mentally ill doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to be a mom or that I can’t be a good parent. My public defender was amazing and believed in me wholeheartedly. A few months after the case was closed, that same public defender sent me a flyer for a scholarship. I wrote my life story and I won and was inducted into the scholarship program. I received formal education and an internship. I had great success and completed the scholarship program. I was hired by a local, behavioral health agency position in peer support. I now work with SMI clients who are in crisis and I come alongside them to give them hope and information on how to recover. 

One of my clients came out of the hospital recently, and I was newly assigned to her. When I met with her in the group home, I almost started to cry as this woman sitting in front of me was just like me three years ago. Terrified, confused, and no one to help. And at that point, I realized that she too had nothing with her. So, I thought back to that woman named Deborah and as God would have it, I still had her phone number.  I reached out to Deborah and didn’t know if she would remember me, but she did! I told her and the woman I was working with, and then told Deborah the story of how much it meant to me when she was there for me in my time of need. I asked Deborah if she could provide the same service she did to me to my new client. And that night my new client had everything she needed in those bags dropped off by Deborah. I guess the best part of that story was that I was able to tell Deborah all I had done in the last three years until now and I work with people like me in the community and that I never forgot those who truly helped me. I am blessed by P82 and continue to follow the great work they are doing. If you are seriously mentally ill and alone… people like me and Deborah are out here advocating for you. It’s ok to have mental illness and you too can find relief from the bondage that stigma has over all of us. Keep asking the right people for help and you will find it. You’re not alone. 

– Leslie 

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