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by Patti Bitney Starke and Callie Sleper

Eileen grew up in New York. She earned a full college scholarship and earned an accounting degree from Tri- State University. Following college, she accepted a position as a full-time accountant and, shortly after, she was promoted within the business in which she supervised a team.

Following her promotion and professional success, she began to experience extensive mental health challenges. After multiple hospitalizations, a multitude of psychiatric medications, and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) sessions, she found it impossible to continue to work. Eventually, she moved to MN to be with her sister, who ultimately became her caregiver.

Eileen had been told many times in her life that mental health recovery was impossible for her, and that success in life wasn’t an option–and neither was getting a job. Many said she’d only feel better with more prescriptions.

Eileen knew there must be better possibilities for her than a life of isolation. She met others who had found recovery, wellness, employment, and a newfound independence. Eileen asked them, “What helped you?” A strong advocate said, “WRAP®.” She initially thought, ‘Great, another treatment.’ Desperate to find herself, she attended a WRAP seminar. WRAP is centered around each participant designing their own Wellness Recovery Action Plan. Eileen, along with other WRAP participants, zeroed in on what it looks like when they are at their best or how to achieve it, and what to do to get back to that point when things fall apart. Eileen realized she needed to take responsibility for her life and develop and “live” her WRAP daily.

“There is such a thing as recovery, and you don’t have to be told what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it, or what you’re going to take,” said Eileen. “You can develop your own wellness recovery and say, ‘This is what’s worked for me, and this hasn’t worked for me, so don’t force me to do things I don’t want to.’ It’s shown me different ways to recover. WRAP has given me a lot of hope.”

The hope Eileen gained through WRAP, gave her the strength and confidence to land her dream job as a Certified Peer Specialist at Emma Norton, a St. Paul shelter for homeless women in crisis. Eileen frequently shares her experience with the women there and continues a cycle of hope.

“Eileen is just wonderful to work with,” said her supervisor, Jessica. “She is such a strong team member—always willing to help out, learn, and ask questions. Our team here is almost brand new, so it has been a pleasure seeing Eileen learn and grow with her team members. Eileen is also very supportive of them and helps them understand our agency.”

This May, Eileen also married Dave, her partner of five years. These days, she is beaming with a lightness in spirit that is contagious. Eileen never gave up on herself, and is proud of proving herself right about her potential. “WRAP helped me get healthier, and it still helps me,” said Eileen. “WRAP and Kaposia can make a difference in your life if you really want change.”