A Non-Portrait of
Mental Illness: Meet David
This question-and-answer series is dedicated to honoring our clients at our Horizon House 1 & 2 and Five Rivers campuses, our community supportive housing for individuals navigating chronic mental illness. We aim to showcase that while our clients have a mental health condition – there is so much more about them that is worthy of embracing. Read David’s conversation:
Q: So David, how long have you been with us at Horizon House?
A: “I’ve been here four years. But I’ve lived all over the place. New York; Maryland; Denver, Colorado; Philadelphia; and Tombstone, Arizona…Don’t ask why! (chuckling)”
Q: We’re so glad you’ve made a home with us then.
A: “Yea, I like it here. But this is my last year at Horizon House. I’m planning to leave after Christmas. I’m trying to gather my things together to make this year or the next my last. I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been here and I feel I can do so much more in the community now.”
Q: We’ll be so sad to see you go – but we’re excited for you! How do you plan to be involved in the community?
A: “So I want to get out and help the Black community I am a part of. My passion is to help younger brothers and sisters realize their potential in life and show them they have a lot to offer and they have talent. I hate to see young people on the street, or in jail, becoming another statistic.”
Q: This is wonderful David. We’re going to miss you.
A: “I’m gonna miss it here too. Horizon House has helped me so much. I’ve changed so much since I’ve been here. I am a paranoid schizophrenic, but since being here I’m not nervous anymore. I can actually talk to people and hold my head high. That’s just something that is very good. It’s hard to even explain how different I feel.”
Q: When are you at your happiest?
A: “Let me tell you, I feel happy every day. I’m blessed with no voices in my head and I’m blessed with life. I feel happy every day! It might be an hour or two where I have problems, but I snap out of it. Especially without the voices. I’m telling you, it was rough man.”
Q: What is something you’re looking forward to?
A: “I’m looking forward to volunteering at a local organization that has helped me a lot in the past. I also want to go back to Disney World. I know I know...but I’m a big Disney fan because of my love for animation. When I was a kid, I took a picture with Mickey Mouse and I wanna do it again.”
Q: Any other thoughts you want to share?
A: “I would basically say to anyone who is struggling - learn about your illness and work toward getting healthy coping mechanisms. That’s the key. You can do anything you want to do. Being able to cope and get out in the community and live a ‘normal’ life would be groovy if you can. I would just say having a good support system is also key. Set yourself up to where you’ll be able to overcome your illness. Getting help is the first step, but learning about your illness is the next important thing. That way you know what you have, your strengths, your weakness – that way you learn to cope. I’m just really happy I don’t succumb to my illness anymore. The medication and my support community have really changed my life to where I don’t suffer anymore.”
Because of the shelter and community support provided by Horizon House, David was in a stable enough environment to begin taking the medication he needed to help him manage his mental illness. He now feels empowered enough to not only rejoin his community but give back to it. Stories like David’s serve as encouragement for so many, including Catholic Charities. We are proud to be a part of the mission to de-stigmatize mental illnesses and provide valuable resources to our community, not only in Mental Health Month but beyond.
For more information on enrolling at Horizon House 1 & 2 or Five Rivers, visit our website or call 865.524.9896
Q: It sounds like your time at Horizon House has helped you manage your illness?
A: “It has. When I was younger I used to verbally attack people because I thought they were saying awful things to me, but it was all in my head. So then I started using tricks to help me because I would still hear the voices. It’s been many nights where I couldn’t sleep because the voices were nonstop. It’s really hard when you go through that. But, I’ve overcome my illness with the help of medication. I don’t hear voices anymore! For the first time, I’m enjoying the peace and quiet.”
Q: That is an amazing accomplishment, David! So what are some things you enjoy doing?
A: “I love to work out. I’m going for the Sugar Ray Leonard build (chuckling). I also love to draw anime and other different types of art. I even went to Japan in the ’80s! I enjoy talking to and helping people. I also cook. I was the omelet maker for a while here. I can cook. I can grill. Anything from a Philly cheesesteak to fried chicken…anything! I’m planning on cooking a big Christmas dinner.”
Q: You sound like a great cook! What’s your favorite thing to eat?
A: “I love a nice steak. It’s gotta be steak. It’s gotta be a T-bone. Crispy up top, soft inside. It’s beautiful.”
Catholic Charities of East Tennessee and Horizon House 1 & 2, or Five Rivers do not prescribe, provide or administer any psychiatric medications. This transcription has been edited for clarity. This conversation was mutually agreed upon and all answers were given voluntarily.