Before overcoming her mental illness, for Carlena, taking a shower and eating breakfast was too much for her at one point in her life.
“Just doing that was so overwhelming,” she said. “I would freeze up – I was scared.”
Having a conversation with someone, including her family members, felt impossible.
“I felt like I was going to go down hard. I would just sit on my couch, and I couldn’t move,” she said. “But I got through it.”
Now, Carlena has her own home, and her family dynamics have transformed. She credits a large part of her healing to the therapy and case management services she’s received at the Mental Health Center of Denver since 1989.
Previously, she experienced a breakdown, and she temporarily lost custody of her children. Later, in 2012, her daughter passed away, and she lost her home.
“I’ve been through a lot,” she said. “This is my suffering and my healing. The thing that came out of all of this is that I healed and I have my independence.”
And it wasn’t a process that happened overnight.
“I had a mental health (condition), and I didn’t understand it,” she said. “Through a lot of therapy, I fought it, and I came back to my senses.”
A Bipolar Diagnosis
Carlena was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and her therapist helped her understand what that meant and how to treat it. She also read a lot about the topic on her own, and as she understood it more, she committed to working on getting better.
“I had to understand it for myself,” she said. “In my generation, if you were sick, you would hide. Coming out of your shell to understand who you are, and accepting the person you are, really helps.”
So, she encourages others to search for knowledge as well if they’re experiencing something they don’t understand. And to not be afraid to seek help.
“You know when you feel good and when you don’t,” she said. “I went for it because I know the person I am, and I wanted to get back to that part of me.”
The Mental Health Center of Denver connected her with housing resources and helped Carlena get back into a home of her own.
She was also able to utilize the organization’s adult Resource Center, where she obtained furniture for her apartment. It also provided an opportunity for her to interact with others.
In addition, she was given a case manager, which made it easier for her to get to her appointments.
“I’ve met some good people who understand their work,” she said. “I encourage anybody who needs help to go get it. They’re there for you.”
Overcoming Mental Illness to Find Herself Again
Her journey of recovery hasn’t just helped her get back to where she wants to be — it has positively impacted her family as well.
“I have seen my family go from dysfunctional to functional,” she said. “We’ve all been through difficult times, and if one person has experience getting help, it usually sets an example for others.”
Today, Carlena feels blessed.
She loves socializing with others and feels like she can be herself around people again. She knits (a hobby she’s had since she was 14), spends time with her grandchildren and lives an independent life.
“You can get through anything,” she said. “I know I did. And I’m still working on it.”