Mental Illness can leave us vulnerable and force one into a state of unhealthy isolation. But as Spanish novelist Miguel de Unamuno tells us, “Isolation is the worst possible counselor.” That’s why we are so proud of Sharon, who found the inner strength to remove herself from a harmful situation and replace it with a better one.
Sharon’s journey begins in New Jersey’s Essex County. While growing up there, she was subjected to physical, emotional, and sexual abuses by those closest to her. Understandably, this led to a high-level of distrust for those around her. She closed down, refusing to let anyone get too close. Even the most benign human contact could set her off, causing her to lash out at even those who meant her no harm. She stopped taking her medications and fell into a pattern of substance abuse. Sharon recognized the unhealthy environment in which she was living and decided to remove herself from it. She found a more stable living situation in Hunterdon County, taking on a job at a local call center.
The call center was geared towards helping people just like herself. For a while, it seemed as though Sharon had escaped her past. Unfortunately, emotional scars run deep. One day, when her supervisor was sharing some constructive criticism, they got into an argument. At one point, the supervisor reached out to calm Sharon, attempting to defuse her frustration, but inadvertently made it worse. Human contact was a trigger for Sharon and when the supervisor touched her, she exploded. She was terminated from the call center and sunk into a dark place. Sharon refused to give up however, making the realization that her tremendous struggles were not something she could face alone. That’s why she reached out to Easterseals New Jersey and met her case manager, Kendall Hill.
Still battling her trust issues, Sharon had trouble letting Kendall get close enough to help. From her experience at the call center, Sharon knew that case managers had an unhealthy habit of not “sticking around.” Kendall wasn’t your average case manager though… She was patient, calm, and always delivered on her promises. This went a long way with Sharon as she was so used to being disappointed by those around her. She began to open up about her past, dealing with issues that have haunted her for most of her life.
To say Sharon has come a long way in a short time would be an understatement. Working with Kendall, Sharon was able to get her medications and substance abuse under control. Eventually, she gained control of her finances and even bought a new car. She successfully pulled herself out of isolation and took control of her life. Now, she is back in school studying Human Resources at Thomas Edison State College. Driven by her own experiences, she wants to assist others living with mental illness to get the help they need, which is why she is now working at the Getting Together Self-Help Center. Just two years ago, the thought of another person touching her made Sharon’s hair stand on end. But when it came time to thank her case manager for all she had done, she did so with a hug.
Kendall and Easterseals couldn’t be happier for Sharon and can’t wait to witness her continued success. Thank you for letting us share your story with the world. We hope it inspires others to seek out help and teaches them that they never have to walk the path alone.