Personal Stories of Recovery

Louetta's Story

My journey of recovery has been full of many ups and downs, valleys and mountaintops. As with anyone, it will be hard to reduce it to one page, but I will try to capture the highlights.

At the age of 29, I learned that I had a mental illness as an adult. That was difficult to accept, but what really surprised me was learning that I also had been diagnosed with a mental illness as a child. I have no memory of taking Ritalin for six years, and I only remember a few visits to the psychiatrist that I saw monthly during that time. In retrospect, the treatment must have been helpful. I know this, because I remember the difficulties I encountered after my child psychiatrist passed away and my treatment was interrupted.

College was a stressful time for me, beginning with my father’s untimely death (quite likely a suicide) a month after I graduated from high school. I tried to lead a “normal” college life, but I struggled with sleep and concentration problems. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life and decided on a business degree, which didn’t really capitalize on my interests and abilities. For many years I floundered and finally had to move back home to Tennessee at 29, when I was re-diagnosed as an adult.

For a number of years, I didn’t even try to work, although I desperately wanted to. It was all I could do to get out of bed. While the older medications left much to be desired, I experienced an episode that landed me exhausted, bankrupt, and in trouble with the law; I thought my future was hopeless. I understood that I would never be able to work again.

While living in a halfway house, I began working at part-time volunteer jobs, which were so difficult for me at the time – filing and reading talking books for the blind. I moved on to working at the drop-in center as a peer counselor, which I felt would help others while I was helping myself. I learned to challenge myself with roles that were just beyond my grasp, and turn to my therapist, case manager and psychiatrist, as well as family and friends to deal with the emotions that surfaced as my recovery progressed. My quality of life, housing and work all improved gradually.

To make a long story short, in 2001 I graduated with a Master’s in Social Work and an award from the faculty. Today, as a social worker, I value the challenges I have been through that have given me the insight and empathy I have for others, and I value the relationships and strengths I developed in the valleys. As for the view from the mountaintop – it is glorious.


panoramic view of the smoky mountains, overlooking a valley with dark silohette trees in the forground leading to blue maountais with a layer of "smoke" then in the background a majuestic orange and yelowish red sunset with a small sun in the distance. breath taling about 5 inches square a larger image as the space on the page allows it.