In 1975, my family, fearing (with cause) that I was suicidal, brought an outreach team from the local hospital to my apartment. After a brief conversation, I was told that I could either enter the hospital "voluntarily" or involuntarily. Offered this "choice," I agreed to go "voluntarily," and was taken to the locked psychiatric ward of the nearby general hospital.
Hearing the key turn in the lock while I was on the wrong side of the door terrified me; but the camaraderie with my roommates was healing and, despite an episode of forced drugging, I managed to retain some hope.
During a second hospitalization, in 1976, I met a caring psychologist whom I continued to see for the next 7 years. I had lucked into a 2-for-1 deal - a friend and a helpful partner in my treatment.
A third lucky break was that a former employer offered me my job back, although I told him I was calling from a psych ward. It wasn't only his faith in me that helped; it was also the job, where I stayed for 8 years and was repeatedly promoted. Having a job I enjoyed and where my work was respected was enormously satisfying.
In 1976, I moved into a political collective and met Joseph Rogers, now well known as a longtime leader in the consumer/survivor/ex-patient (c/s/x) movement but then a 24-year-old community organizer. We went from mutual support to a 15-year marriage. Despite our divorce, our partnership continues: he is the executive director and I am the director of the National Mental Health Consumers' Self-Help Clearinghouse, a peer-run national technical assistance center funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Having control over my own life has been central to my recovery. Except for my time in the hospital, I have had the freedom to choose my companions, my home, my occupation, my amusements, and my political affiliations. I have also had the power to decide whether or not to seek professional help (and from whom) and whether or not to take medication (and which ones), and over the last 36 years I have done both. Sometimes it has helped, sometimes not so much. But in every instance I had the power to choose, which has made all the difference.