Cover story from our Fall 2012 Newsletter -
As a 4-year old, Yoshie Hill couldn’t understand why her mother suddenly threw away her favorite toys or started to yell back at the radio. When Yoshie saw her mother being taken away, no one explained to her what had happened. Even if they had tried, how could a 4 year-old understand schizophrenia? In her young mind,
Yoshie reasoned that it had to be something that she did or didn’t do that caused her mother to go away. Yoshie and her sister were taken in by her paternal grandparents during her mother’s two-year hospital stay. After she was released, Yoshie’s mother returned home. Yoshie’s memories as a child were of amother who was heavily drugged on Thorazine and who experienced periodic psychotic episodes. Throughout her childhood, Yoshie was reminded by her father not to speak about her mother outside of their home. And she didn’t. In fact, Yoshie would sometimes go for a week at a time, not uttering a word to anyone. There was no counseling or support offered to her or her sister to work through the ramifications of their family’s terrible secret.
As an adult, Yoshie experienced frequent bouts of depression. Four years ago, she lost her job at a community college, and subsequently, her apartment. She moved back into her mother’s home, but without the ability to pay rent, Yoshie’s sister, who was managing her mother’s affairs, threated eviction. Spiraling into a deep depression and unable to think of any other alternative, Yoshie recalls carefully planning how she was going to commit suicide. “In a brief moment of clarity,” she picked up the phone to call 911.
After a two-week stay in a psychiatric ward, Yoshie was placed at Redwood House, Caminar’s crisis residential treatment center. Despite being heavily medicated and not comprehending how she got there, she clearly recalls that from the outset, she felt completely welcomed by the Redwood House staff and residents. On her first day, a resident told her that a group of them were going to get haircuts and invited her to come along. The next day, there was a holiday party. Every day, there was something going on, so there was no time to dwell or brood. As she got to know her peers and learned of their experiences, she realized that she was not alone. They shared and learned from each other in group exercises, went on outings, and worked with their case managers on setting goals and planning next steps. When she started to feel down, Yoshie found that Caminar staff members were always there, day or night, to support her.
One afternoon, a group of Redwood House residents attended a College of San Mateo open house for the supported education program. There, she met Jerry, a friendly counselor with a warm twinkle in his eye. It wasn’t until the two met again a year later that she learned that he was a peer counselor who had gone through Caminar’s programs himself. After discovering all that they had in common and sharing a mutual attraction, they began dating. Two years later, they are now happily married.
When Yoshie began looking for work, she was offered a temporary clerical position in an insurance agency. The owner, Jerry’s uncle, was so impressed with Yoshie’s work that he offered her a full time job as receptionist and later, training to become an agent herself. Yoshie jumped at the opportunity, went through rigorous training and testing, and earned a license to become a certified insurance agent. She loves her work, especially when dealing with clients who are going through difficulties, because her life experiences have taught her true empathy.
Caminar appreciates Yoshie’s willingness to share her story and also for employers like Yoshie’s who give individuals who have a mental illness a real chance to prove to themselves and to the world what they are capable of accomplishing. As Yoshie shows, recovery is real, and it is happening every day at Caminar.