“You see,” writes Myra Anderson in her essay “Healing Words,” “when you’ve been hospitalized over one hundred times, taken away in handcuffs, subject to medication against your will, thrown into seclusion and restraints constantly, traumatized repeatedly, and forced to grow up in a system which prided itself on conformity and compliance, maybe then you can begin to understand my journey.”
Anderson was one of nine people reading from their personal narratives of recovery from mental illnesses at Region Ten’s Blue Ridge House. The stories were collected in a book titled Meet Me At the Mountain Top, a seven-month project that sprung from the Consumer Advisor Council for Region Ten, a local government funded agency that provides mental health services. And on January 19, they stood in front of a podium and microphone and read their stories.
“Having been in the mental-health system since I was 12 years old, a lot of stuff has happened since then,” said Anderson after the reading, as the writers, their families and others milled around the room, sipping punch and munching on cake. “And it’s been healing, it’s been a healing experience because I’ve been able to say, ‘This is what I’ve been through, but look at where I am now.’”
Darcy Baker, a Region Ten employee, says that the idea behind the reading was to create awareness of the recovery process involved with mental illness. Each of the nine readers spoke about the role of hope in their individual paths through recovery.
“[These stories] have huge power to give people hope,” says Debra Knighton, who opened the reading with excerpts from her essay “A Journey of Faith.” “If you hope that things are possible that you might think, in the moment, ‘No way.’ You might be having psychiatrists tell you ‘No way.’”
Knighton, for instance, was told that she shouldn’t have kids.
“And I have two wonderful little boys now,” she says. “Being pregnant was one of the happiest times of my life, and I would have missed that.”
Anderson says that she sees Meet Me At the Mountain Top as a roadmap from which people many years removed from it can draw hope.
“I look at it like this: Everyone has a different story to tell,” she says. “The mere fact that we put these in writing is just saying ‘I was here and this is what happened to me.’”
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