Click the “+” to read full stories. Names of consumers have been changed to protect their confidentiality.
During my last major depressive episode, I found myself only being able to stay awake for 3 hours at a time, and sleeping 12-48 hours consecutively only to repeat the process. Months after inpatient treatment for suicidal ideation, I received electroconvulsive therapy. When I was released from the hospital I came to Pratt, whereupon I had the luck of becoming acquainted with the Prairie Independent Living Resource Center and all that they have to offer.
After the shock treatment, my short term memory was so dysfunctional I could barely unload a dishwasher without repetitive instruction; I was paranoid and hallucinating, having panic attacks; and I was still suffering from relentless suicidal ideation. I remember feeling already dead, having dissociated so as to not have to deal with the torment my daily living had become.
PILR was there for me. The people who work for PILR are a special bunch of people who are the most positive and encouraging and sincere I’ve ever come across. Having given up on hospitalization, I asked the people of PILR if I could stay in their waiting area during the day — for hours. I felt at the time that my suicidal ideation was nothing I wanted to be alone with. And they not only let me read and write in their waiting room, but they aided in my recovery like no other therapy I’ve ever received. Their constant encouragement, care, and kind words gradually lifted my spirits and gave me hope. They were understanding of my situation and they said they could help me with what I couldn’t handle, and they did just that. Step by step, PILR led me in the right direction: down the lighted path of recovery.
A member of PILR helped me with all of my mail; I tried to read it myself when I could force up the energy to open the letters, but at the time I could make no sense of the print. It was overwhelming and unintelligible. When phone calls needed to be made about bills (or anything else, for that matter), and I was incapable of having the organized thought required to hold a conversation, let alone understand what needed to be conversed, a PILR member helped me. One member even went out of his way to give me a file-organizer, and showed me how to use it. When I needed someone to advocate for me, PILR was there. One member drove me from Pratt to Hutchinson to speak directly to my psychiatrist, helping me to get on the meds I am on today, thus helping me become a functioning member of society. Thanks to the advocacy of PILR, I am no longer having panic attacks, bouts of catatonia, hallucinations or hypersomnia. Those ailments are things of the past.
PILR made me feel like I had a purpose. When they recognized that I was improving and could handle more on my own, they presented volunteer opportunities which directly led me to employment. Now, thanks to PILR, my suicidal ideation is minimal to none, I have a job, my billing issues have been settled, I’ve been taught how to review, handle and organize my mail on my own, and I know if I ever need support it’s not far away.
Also, now that I’m employed there is Job Club of which I am a member of, where I find support from those with similar disabilities. Overall, PILR has helped me to become a more independent individual, putting the ABLE into my disability.
Our CIL was located in this city so I was able to search for an appropriate apartment for her. When I would meet with her I would share photos of different apartments I had taken with my phone. She was curious about different aspects of the photos and would ask a lot of questions. We filled out housing applications together and talked with her payee about what was affordable for her. Finally, I found a nice landlord and an appropriate apartment and she agreed to move into it.
Another ILS and I secured a U-Haul to move her and chose a day to move her from one city to the other. She was very particular and protective of her belongings. She required constant reassurance that everything would be alright. She would often break down about how unhappy she was and how thankful she was to have found a way out of her living situation.
In fact, the six months spent at her sister’s home would haunt her even after moving a whole city away. Once in her new apartment, her mood changed to one of excitement and relief. She was anxious to settle in and finally have a chance to go through her things and also purchase new items for her home. As she sorted through her belongings, she donated several items including a TV and clothing to others she thought might be able to use them. She also wanted to get rid of anything that reminded her of her past with her sister.
Today she is living on her own without aid from her sister, going shopping, decorating her home, enjoying radio and tv programs, and is becoming interested in joining more community activities.
When it was this one young man’s turn to introduce himself he told his name, and then said he had no goals because he had a disability and couldn’t accomplish goals.
We spent that day talking about the history and treatment of people with disabilities, and how to advocate for your needs and how and why you should get involved in the legislative process.
At the end of the training when we went back around this same young man said that he had learned that he could have goals and that he could achieve them as well. Since that training, he has been involved in several projects with the center, and is working full time.
Schizophrenia doesn’t have to mean a life of institutions and tragedy. With the assistance and guidance of our Employment Specialist, Bonnie has excelled in her professional and private life. She is active in our peer support Job Club, which emphasizes consumer employment training skills, vocational peer support and disabilities in the workplace education.
Although she has been employed for several months, she has learned that it is important to give back to others who may be struggling behind her. She still attends faithfully to offer her strength, support and experience. PILR has been able to consistently provide a lush training field that cultivates various life skills and empowerment recognition opportunities.
Bonnie has recently been able to reconnect with her family, and they are encouraged by her steady growth with us and within herself. She looks forward to building a real future with her infant daughter. The unsure and frightened young adult has flourished into a confident and empowered ray of hope with PILR growing by her side.
There was a time when she would only accept home visits, and preferred to communicate solely through phone lines and e-mail. With consistent encouragement and small secure steps, our employment specialist was able to gain trust and teach confidence as she dared believe in our center’s mission statement; “The purpose of Prairie Independent Living Resource Center (PILR) is to achieve the full inclusion and acceptance of people with disabilities through education and advocacy.”
Tiffany suffered a severe setback after her mother passed away from prolonged illness. Her mother was her main lifeline to the rest of the world, and the only real family Tiffany has ever known. Alone and frightened beyond belief, she knew her choices were to either move forward with PILR or sink back into the all too comfortable world of institutions and invisible barriers.
Tiffany made a choice. She branched out and into partnership with vocational rehabilitation services and mental health case management. She set up a new apartment and created a home for herself, away from the sad memories of her former dark rooms.
PILR has been able to successfully form partnerships with these agencies and also become a viable community collaborator with other local organizations. Because our center was able to offer independent living skills and employment education and advocacy services, Tiffany now lives independently in her own home, volunteers in the community (she can now enter businesses and public places with confidence and assurance) and has begun to live a vibrant and full life.
It wasn’t so long ago, that we dared hope she would at least be able to come to our office and sit comfortably at a distance from others. Now she is in the middle of groups, taking part in lively discussions and offers her time and care to others in need. She has found her own mission and gives back to a new community of friends.
Patty came our way after graduating from a local state university with a degree in education. Seeking local employment services, she partnered with vocational rehabilitation services and PILR to actively seek employment as a teacher and seek assistance with setting up independence in one of our small rural communities. Our employment specialist was able to connect her with various interview opportunities and guide her through the long winding trail of completing applications and submitting resumes, interviewing with various levels of administration and developing local resources.
Patty is now employed as a substitute teacher and Para-professional with one of our local junior high schools. With PILR’s assistance, she has begun a journey that will no doubt take her to various levels of success and fulfillment.