Mental Healing for the Hopeless

Tracy was the type of person that would light up a room. Her infectious personality and joyful demeanor was a breath of fresh air to everyone she came in contact with, but somewhere along the way, she lost her joy and her shining light of exuberance began to flicker. Life’s pressures began to weigh on her and push her to the brink, until a United Way of Greater St. Louis (UWGSL) partner agency was there to rescue her before her light went out for good.

From peace to pain

Most of Tracy’s early adulthood was normal and enjoyable. She had a thriving customer service career in healthcare that she thoroughly enjoyed, a four-bedroom home, a nice car, and an active social life.

One of the relationships in her life that she cherished most was the one she had with her mother. She was her mother’s only child and the bond they developed was strong and unbreakable. Tracy’s mother was the strongest woman she had ever known and a person she knew she could always lean on for support and guidance.

“My mother was my best friend once I reached adulthood, we were like sisters almost,” said Tracy. “I was very close to my mother to the point of almost being co-dependent in some ways.”

Tracy’s world came crashing down when her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2007. Despite the illness, Tracy refused to put her in a nursing home. Given how close they were, if it was anyone that was going to be taking care of her mother, it was going to be her.

Serving the role of primary caregiver was a grueling experience. During this time, Tracy had to watch the woman who she loved, admired and looked up to slowly deteriorate.

“It was very hard, she had moments where she was very frustrated, there were times when she would look at me, but didn’t even know who I was,” said Tracy.

Tracy’s mother passed away in 2012, leaving a huge void in Tracy’s life and sending her spiraling into depression. Soon after her mother’s death, Tracy fell ill and was rushed into emergency surgery, two days after the surgery, she stopped breathing and had to be placed on a ventilator for three days and remained in the hospital for a month.

Life was growing darker and darker by the day. She didn’t have her mother anymore, her health was in jeopardy, and tension grew between her and her father that prevented them from speaking to each other for years.

As time went on, her depression worsened, and she began to give up on life. She lost her job, her house, and most alarming, her desire to continue living.

But Tracy took a failed suicide attempt as a sign that perhaps it was her destiny to continue to persevere despite the pain. She realized her mom wouldn’t have wanted her to give up.

“This told me in some way that my mom was with me,” said Tracy.

Triumph through tribulation

Tracy sought help and was admitted to a psychiatric unit where she got to meet with other people that were going through their own turbulent journey. Hearing about their struggles helped her realize that she was not alone in what she was going through. She calls her weekend in the psychiatric unit “A weekend of enlightenment.”

Following her discharge, a social worker referred her to the Independence Center, a UWGSL partner agency that is a community-based rehabilitation program for adults with severe and persistent mental illness.

They placed Tracy in their Clubhouse program where she got an opportunity to receive the proper care and support she needed. They paired her with a therapist and psychiatrist that spent extensive time with her, helping to understand her struggles and give her advice on how to cope with her clinical depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The Independence Center paid for her medication and continued to conduct therapy sessions. Every day Tracy was becoming more engaged in her recovery process and after about a year, she began to see a change in her mental state and outlook on life.

“When I started coming to the Clubhouse, I found people that cared about me and wanted to help me,” said Tracy. “This was something that I really needed, I needed to find a new purpose because I reached a point where I thought my only purpose to be here was to take care of my mother.”

The winds of chronic depression began to recede, and she was slowly beginning to reclaim the joy and peace in her life that had been absent for years.

In 2020, she moved out of her aunt’s house into her own apartment, made amends with her father, and learned how to deal with the grief of losing her mother in a healthy way. Once she got her life back on track, she wanted to find a way to contribute to the Independence Center and their Clubhouse program, given all they had done to help her.

She became an ambassador and peer-support specialist for the Independence Center and travels to national and international conferences and trainings to support and learn more about the Clubhouse program. To this day, she remains passionate about supporting the Independence Center as they help people who struggle with mental illness the way she once did.

“I work here, but I’m not paid to work here,” said Tracy. “I’m dedicated to this place, and they know that I will be here for whatever they need me to do.”

After a long, hard struggle, Tracy’s light has been restored and she is hopeful and passionate about life once again. As she reflects on her journey, she is grateful for her road to recovery and looks forward to helping others who carry the same burdens she once did.

“My journey has made me who I am, so I have to respect it,” said Tracy. “Everything that’s happened to me has happened for a reason and hopefully I’ll be able to help others.”

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Rodney Humphries
Rodney Humphries

Rodney Humphries is the Communications Specialist for United Way of Greater St. Louis and a proud graduate of Webster University where he developed his passion for writing. In college, he combined his love for writing and sports, serving as the primary sports writer for his school newspaper while also developing his own sports blog. After graduating, he continued his love for writing as he served as a freelance writer for various publications. Rodney continues to be a fan of Webster athletics, you will often see him sitting courtside at a lot of their basketball games.