For over twenty years, I have struggled with symptoms of mental illness. When I was only twelve, my father passed away from a brain aneurysm in front of me. I was so devastated by the loss, I felt myself slipping into a place I didn’t quite understand, but at my young age I didn’t know how to share my feelings with someone so they could throw me a life-line. Life continued throughout high school.

Fortunately, I was admitted into the Intensive Educational Development Program at the University of Maryland and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Behavioral and Social Sciences in 1990. In 1994, I married, and on December 15, 1995, I gave birth to my number one fan and best friend, my now fifteen year old son, Zachary. I endured postpartum depression for several months, at which time I felt extremely overwhelmed.

My symptoms intensified and I began having thoughts. I was created for a special purpose. I was convinced my home and car were bugged. I believed the government spies were trying to take my son away from me. I spent hours driving on expressways and interstates chasing trucks and buses, reading them for clues and signs about what I was to do next. Colors symbolized both people and things, so every time I glanced at something green, it was telling me to grow-up, purple represented my mother, and yellow, my sister. Every color and every sight I saw meant something to me. My symptoms included severe mood swings, hallucinations, and paranoid delusions. It was both exhilarating and exhausting.

I returned to my home state of Michigan with the hope of benefiting from participation in a mental health research study called STEP, Services for the Treatment of Early Psychosis, at Wayne State University. Participating in this research study offered me hope while I endured the symptoms of Schizophrenia. The staff of the STEP Program worked diligently to create a well-rounded, all-inclusive treatment program for persons experiencing psychotic symptoms. The STEP program offered a three piece program: psycho-education, social skills, and medication management. This opportunity was the single most contributing factor to my recovery. I am a fervent believer that mental health research was what led me to a stable and fulfilling life. Research was key to correct diagnosis and finally finding a treatment program that worked for me.

I have been in recovery since 2005 and am living a fulfilling life. In May 2007, I completed my Masters of Social Justice Program and, as part of my required internship, I developed and implemented an educational support model program through my non-profit organization, Dig My Roots Foundation. Working with Wayne State University Psychiatric Centers, Detroit Central City, and Lincoln Behavioral Services, I have assisted many of my peers in gaining entry into higher educational institutions, trade schools, and GED completion programs throughout the metropolitan Detroit area.

I married a wonderfully understanding man in April 2007 and my son is performing exceptionally well academically and socially. I am currently employed full-time with Gateway Community Health Agency as a Prevention, Education, and Outreach Specialist, and I am also a Doctoral Candidate in Human Services with a specialization in Social Policy Analysis and Planning. Mental health research has had a positive impact on my life and I encourage every peer to seek out research opportunities and get involved.

To learn more about mental health research and research opportunities available, visit www.WeSearchTogether.org, a partnership between DBSA and the University of Michigan Depression Center that brings researchers and mental health consumers together as partners to advance research.