My name is Gwen. My association with Project Live began in October 2009. I was attending the Acute Partial Care Mental Health Program at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). My diagnosis is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is commonly associated with veterans of the military. My PTSD was brought on as a direct result of the trauma of finding my son dead due to a massive heart attack resulting from an eating disorder, while simultaneously watching my mother lose her battle with colon cancer.
Not long after my mother’s death, I was sexually assaulted in my apartment. I learned later that I had disassociated myself from the rape, which is different and deeper than denial. I didn’t tell anyone about the attack for almost a year. All of the events I’ve mentioned happened within a one year period. It was only when I began having flashbacks, and regained my memories from the assault that I even admitted to myself what had happen. I attempted suicide twice, and was constantly going to the hospital due to thoughts of killing my attacker and ending my own life.
I was severely depressed & suicidal, and had lost all willingness to live or participate in my life, when I met two amazing women. Debbie and Tanisha are employees of an organization called Project Live. My counselor at UMDNJ suggested that I meet with them. I only decided to meet with them because I honestly thought that Project Live was an organization that could somehow help me get out of my depressive state and get my will to live back again. I later found out that Project Live was much more. Previously I had a family, an apartment, and a job. But due to my apathy for life, I completely turned my back on everything and walked away. My belief in God had disappeared. I pictured myself living under a bridge and perhaps one day getting the courage to jump off the bridge and end my life. What is now shocking to me is that I was completely comfortable in that state of mind. I’d tried twice, unsuccessfully, to end my life, and prior to being released from the psychiatric unit at UMDNJ, I was already formulating of a new plan. But I didn’t tell anyone because I was actually comfortable being on the psychiatric unit. I felt safe there because I didn’t have to be responsible for myself. It was easy to be there and let life pass me by. I’d talked myself into believing that because I wasn’t noticeably mentally ill, that I wasn’t in fact sick. After all, all I wanted to do was kill myself. I had literally lost my mind and until I became a client of Project Lives’, I had no way of finding it.
After my meeting with Debbie and Tanisha, I felt something familiar. I felt hope. They encouraged me to stay in the Acute Program and follow the instructions of my doctor and counselor. I was so depressed, hopeless, shameful, and felt such despair, that I had convinced myself that no one cared about me, and that I wouldn’t be missed if I died. Project Live has a supervisor named Anne who suggested I apply for unemployment and welfare benefits. For a long time I resisted, and I resented her for wanting me to go. I didn’t realize at the time that all she wanted me to do was be responsible for myself. I finally went and started doing the things Project Live suggested, even when I didn’t want to. Again, thanks to Anne, I applied for and received my unemployment.
God has a way of intervening in my life when I need him the most. It seemed like every time I would have an anxious or depressing situation, either Debbie or Tanisha would call, or I’d see them when they came to meet with another client, and I would tell them about what was bothering me. It was strange because I started to feel better about my life. They would call me when I would least expect it, and always kept their word whenever they set up an appointment. They came and picked me up and took me to the places I needed to go to better my life and living arrangements. They never lied to me about anything! This was new to me because I’d been given the run-a-round by so many people, I had lost faith in mankind. After dealing with the welfare system and its overworked and underpaid employees, I developed a wealth of patience. I don’t know how Debbie and Tanisha did it, but they instilled in me a willingness to live. I started to look forward to the future.
Project Live has taught me that my mental illness is only a small part of who I am. The UMDNJ staff helped me find my mind, and Project Live provided me with a safe and clean home where I can live peacefully and interact with people from all walks of life in a healthy way. I’d always been resilient, but the assault had me feeling like I was in a commercial – the one where the lady had fallen and couldn’t get back up. I thought that my life was over, and that there would never be any more joy in living. I used to call the 1800NOWPRAY prayer-line and ask for prayers. I wore that prayer-line out! With the help of my peers, and the staff at Project Live, I’ve become a better person. I survived the rape and no longer consider myself a victim. The Project Live staff helped me get back up, and with the help of my amazing counselor Naema S., I believe I can stay up! I love laughter and enjoy being around people that enjoy life. Naema helps me stay positive, and constantly points out the solutions in life, rather than the problems.
Project Live provides more than housing services. Project Live provides all the wrap-a-round services too, such as access to counseling services, transportation, food, clothing, and any other service a person could need to succeed in life. Once again, I have a wonderful counselor named Naema. Naema is different from anyone I’ve ever met. Everyone has a blind spot, and she points out things that I sometimes don’t see. For example, I may be in a depressed state and not realize it and, but because I see her at least once a week, and I’m able to call her anytime, I have someone supporting my growth 24/7. What is truly amazing is that if Naema is not available, Project Live will make sure that a professional staff member addresses my problems and needs. Project Live never puts my problems on hold. It doesn’t get any better than that. I no longer have the fear of being alone because I’m comfortable knowing that Project Live is just a phone call away. I was right in the beginning when I said that I thought Project Live was an organization that would show me how to get my will to live back, because they have done just that!
I’m once again living a happy and joyful life. It is a remarkable and indescribable feeling to know that people sincerely care. Project Live is an action organization, and is proactive when dealing with me and my peers. I cannot see my life without Project Live being in the forefront. Project Live has provided services to me that allow me to live my life with respect, integrity and dignity. I’ve met people from other agencies and organizations, and I’ve done several comparisons. Project Live is by far the best organization someone like myself, a person who has a mental illness, can be associated with. Shortly after becoming a member of the Project Live family, I was invited to their Christmas Party. I really didn’t want to go because I thought people would judge me once they found out that I had PTSD, and I had the shame of the assault weighing heavily on my mind. Needless to say, I had the time of my life! People were smiling, dancing and having fun. Project Live gave me back my smile at that party, and has continued to do so throughout the emotional ups and downs of my life since ever since. My new recipe is to live my life to the fullest!
Every day I try to find something to be grateful for. I love people and I believe that not everyone is evil. Project Live reminds me that there are still a lot of good people the world. I’m still in therapy and take medication, which I may have to continue for the rest of my life. I accept this because it helps me. Simply put, it is a component of my mental illness. Project Live has helped me realize and understand that I have to do what’s necessary to face life head on.
Today I’m still smiling. With the help of Project Live, I’ve come to understand that I can’t solve all of the problems in my life. But with the help of Project Live, I can find out which problems I can solve, say a prayer, and ask God to solve the problems I can’t. My gratitude today is to be thankful to God and the people he uses as vehicles to help me be the best person I can be. I’d like to give a special thanks to the entire Project Live professional team for their patience and tolerance during turbulent times when I needed them the most. I’m sure it wasn’t easy God Bless!