Recovery Story: Painting a New Picture, by Andrea


Illness had overtaken my brain early in life. Yes those dreaded discriminating words, mental illness. I was suicidal. I was horribly depressed. I had very high moods and very low moods. I could hear the cursing of people in my head. The chemicals that keep balance and help people thrive had left me very early in life, they had drained into a cesspool of decomposing brain cells and my neurotransmitters, the chemicals I needed in my brain for healthy functioning were depleted. The pathways were grooves of such depths I needed those chemicals badly to help me respond to life in a way that was mentally healthy. The dendrites and neurons and synapses and connections for memorization and concentration and knowledge had become gaping black holes in my brain. Dr. Caroline Leaf, PhD, of South Africa, a brilliant researcher of the brain and behaviors, in her book, “WHO SWITCHED OFF MY BRAIN?” said I had strongholds, toxic thinking and toxic behaviors. Well, I’ve detoxified!

By the age of fifty-five and nine months I had new joy and peace. I smiled and laughed as I had when my four children were young and saying their babble words. I began to remember some good things that happened as a younger person. I began to hear my thinking. I started understanding my emotions. My behaviors reflected my new understanding of responsible and kind and loving actions. I was now a beautiful picture of grace. The Artist was painting a new picture of my life for me.

You are your name not your diagnosis. You are your NAME! You are NOT schizophrenic, bipolar, schizoaffective, depressed, PTSD, DID, OCD. YOU ARE YOUR NAME!

I learned about the humanness of mental illnesses, the people behind all the words that define our illnesses. I learned it not from psychology books or nursing classes or medical school where it is not taught. I took NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Peer to Peer classes four times. I’ve taught it four times. I was in intensive therapy in partial hospitalization four times. I was educated by master teachers and therapists. I am a NAMI Provider Educator and I know there are doctors and nurses, and educators and students of all walks of life all over the world who need us to explain our stories. No degrees for my learning could have taught me this.

You are your name not your diagnosis. You are your NAME! You are NOT schizophrenic, bipolar, schizoaffective, depressed, PTSD, DID, OCD. YOU ARE YOUR NAME! You may be diagnosed with a psychiatric diagnosis but YOU ARE YOUR NAME. “Hi, I am Mrs. Andrea Willard!” I don’t introduce myself and then my diagnosis at meetings. I tell them about my recovery and how they can choose a healthy life.

I am an encourager, a healer, a joy-filled, hope-filled giver of myself to anyone who wants to RECOVER.


Andrea is a provider educator in Pennsylvania


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