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As Blake recalls his life when he first got involved with mental health care, he is amazed at how unstable his mental state really was. He had been suffering from substance use disorder but did not believe the drugs he took were detrimental to his mental health. He believed that he was experiencing a kind of “spiritual phenomenon.” Blake was in denial.

Being admitted in and out of mental hospitals, Blake was put on a three-day hold, and then he was committed for three months.

He lost stable housing, was unemployed, and like so many people who fall into these seemingly helpless situations, he just needed a break in order to afford food and gas for his car. Forging his father’s signature on a bank withdrawal slip, Blake later found himself in jail. He was arrested again after trespassing on his parent’s property when they had filed a restraining order against him.

A new sheet of snow blanketed Denver’s streets when Blake understood that, without mental health treatment, every aspect of his life would remain at risk. He contacted the staff at Jefferson Center.

Blake’s diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia was understandably difficult to digest.

After spending some time in another hospital, he was released in six weeks, awarded disability, and transferred to transitional housing. Blake took this as a miracle, no longer resisting the mental health care system and instead embracing the help he received from Jefferson Center. Being housed and staying out of the penal system, Blake began to improve his life in other ways, such as by enrolling in classes and finding a part-time job.

However, Blake still struggled with drug use. Making it worse was the fact that he genuinely didn’t see this as an issue, and it eventually resulted in a tumultuous, uphill battle. He dropped out of school and fell in and out of jobs, though eventually his counselor wrote Blake a letter of recommendation, and, not wanting to lose this opportunity, Blake finally decided it was time to begin a 12-step program along with out-patient classes for drugs and alcohol offered by Jefferson Center. At these meetings, he met another client who became Blake’s sponsor.

It was a long road to recovery, but it worked, and Blake stopped using it.

“I got clean. What an awesome thing.”

– Blake, client of Jefferson Center

Blake obtained another job at a movie rental shop, worked his way to full-time, and then eventually management. He got off disability, too. Then, things hit another snag when the business Blake worked for went under. He lost his job, floated between a few more jobs, gained substantial weight, and needed to go back on disability. Despite all the negativity, Blake continued with his 12-step program and quit cigarettes. He was introduced to an overeaters anonymous meeting and continued his recovery journey. Once again, Blake obtained steady employment, and he willingly joined a schizophrenic alliance.

Upon attending three different 12-step programs, seeing a psychiatrist and a therapist, and buying a condo from Habitat for Humanity, Blake’s family accepted him back, encouraging Blake to remain off drugs, and cigarettes, and continue losing weight.

What can be considered real “mental fitness”? Blake often wonders about this, though he is now feeling much more content in retirement. He takes his meds and carries on with the lifelong journey toward a healthy mind and body.

Your story matters. Share it with us.

Has your life improved because of mental health treatment? Do you wish to use your experience to help others?

Sharing your experiences with mental health treatment can help others who are struggling, and it can help fight the stigma of seeking mental health care.

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