Success Stories

Personal Stories of Recovery

Client deals with challenges while navigating nursing school

Theresa has always felt a deep-seated drive to improve.

It’s a main reason she left Eastern Europe for Erie 15 years ago.

“I moved here because America has many chances for your people to advance themselves,” she said.

Soon after immigrating, Theresa married and gave birth to three children. Although she was seemingly living the idyllic American Dream, her life took an abrupt and unexpected turn.

“After the third child, I was hit with depression,” she said. “It’s a complex illness that can be very hard especially if you think the whole world is against you as I did when I had psychosis.”

Theresa struggled with depression for several years after her initial episode before she was hospitalized and referred to Stairways’ Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team. Through working with the ACT team, she learned new ways to deal with her depression and established a support structure that she trusted and relied on.

“If I have any issues with my mental health, my therapist and nurse would always support me and give me advice,” she said.

Fortified by the help of the ACT team, Theresa decided to pursue her goal of attending nursing school. Though she recognized the challenges such an undertaking presented given her issues with depression, she felt compelled to try due to an innate penchant for caring.

“I love helping people and I love communicating with people,” Theresa said.

While the nursing field seemed like a perfect match for her natural inclination of helping people in need, Theresa’s reluctance to ask for help often made the demanding workload an even greater challenge.

Theresa worked tirelessly and faced myriad obstacles, several of which threatened the prospect of attaining her degree. Enduring bouts psychosis, failing two classes and facing severe testing anxiety were just a few obstacles that threatened to derail her pursuit.

When Theresa’s decision to stop taking her medication nearly resulted in a hospitalization and a failing class grade, she faced the possibility of dismissal. The desperate circumstances coaxed Theresa deviate from her usual self-reliant tendency, as she made use of the help at her disposal by consulting with the ACT team and working out arrangements with the school to complete outstanding work.

Although there was real concern that Theresa might be dismissed – “At one point in time, I was very scared,” she admits—she rewarded those who believed in her by completing the curriculum and passing the boards.

Finally after various setbacks and triumphs, Theresa had accomplished what she had set out what she set out for seven years earlier.

As a registered nurse, Theresa considers her experiences to be an asset: she is an unabashed advocate for taking medications as they are prescribed and possesses a unique empathy in her work with patients.

“I can understand patients because I went through that,” she says. “I understand that a lot of people go through the same process.”

While providing compassionate care is ultimately the outcome for any healthcare professional, reaching a goal against all odds like the one Theresa achieved helped her forge an even greater bond with the staff on Stairways’ ACT team.

“ACT became like a family to me,” she said. “This was an accomplishment we had together.”

Note: For confidentiality reasons, Theresa's real name has been withheld. 

"Stairways helped me to work on recovery, one step at a time." -Ron S

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