My name is Luke, and by supporting Alternatives,
Now I can count myself as one of the 4% of people in the United States who get off of disability benefits after starting them for a significant mental illness. What a waste of talent and resources. What a depressing statistic. It’s just not right. Fortunately, you can do something about it.
I’d be a lot happier if there were many more people joining me in this exclusive club. In fact, I’m pretty upset that so many men and women are stuck feeling both helpless and hopeless. By making a donation today you can do something important for them, you can help them look forward to a brighter tomorrow.
I don’t particularly enjoy being seen as some kind of elite individual or success story, but there are some things that I enjoy even less than compliments. For example, I didn’t enjoy living for an entire month on $737. I don’t miss the days of running out of food. I don’t miss walking long distances to food pantries or having to ask relatives again and again for a help with transportation.
Today my paychecks total almost four times that $737 disability payment each month. And the best part is that no one is giving me that money. I’m earning it.
It wasn’t easy to get to a healthy place – both mental and physical. I had to work hard to overcome my personal challenges. I had to work extra hard to navigate a complicated benefits system with regulations and procedures that make it easier to stay on disability than to get off. Is it that people with disabilities aren’t capable of working, or just that the system is stacked against them?
I was determined to stand on my own two feet and, because of people like you, I had Alternatives’ support every step of the way.
It was Alternatives staff that helped me land a job at a car dealership owned by a member of one of the agency’s regional advisory councils. You always wonder about how it’s going to work out when you start a new job. Will I like my coworkers? Will they like me? Will I be able to do a good job? For someone with a psychiatric disability, these questions take on even more significance. Because, there are other concerns – will they be able to accept me, to get past my disability and see me as a person, as a colleague?
Well, I didn’t need to worry. The other employees at Marlborough Nissan were wonderful to work with. The office position I held was rewarding and I could take pride in knowing that I was being recognized for my skills and work ethic. The money I earned allowed me to buy a car. Now, I don’t have to depend on others to get places and that’s a great feeling! If you have a minute (really, just 60 seconds), check out the short video about my experiences at the dealership.
What I realize when I look back at the job at Marlborough Nissan is how much it helped me become more confident. I learned that I really could make a contribution. I could get off of benefits and “pay my own way.” I had been given the support I needed to start on a path to a new and improved version of me. Thank you for your part in making that happen.
But, I just can’t forget the many other people just like me who haven’t been given the same chance to reclaim their lives. I worry about the other 96% and wonder how long it will take for them to give up hope. If, by supporting Alternatives, just one person can begin to believe in themselves again, you will have given them a gift that lasts all the days of their lives.
There is no universal answer for the question of how to recover from mental illness, how to regain your place in society. It’s a journey filled with roadblocks, external and internal challenges, and lots and lots of hard work. Certainly, I still have good and bad days. You don’t just get to say “abracadabra” and have it all be all right.
But, I’m not one to dwell on the negative. And I found a “magic formula” for myself that I have used to do what many have considered impossible. My solution? To view myself as a functioning, vibrant, productive human being. To not let anyone tell me that I am an invalid, that I am disabled, that I am incapable of working. I proved that assessment wrong long ago and along the way I discovered a new purpose for my life.
I have made it my life’s work to help others see their own capabilities. I have moved on from the dealership (with their blessing!), and now work as a Peer Support Counselor at a sister agency, The Bridge of Central Massachusetts. In my position, I’m sharing my experiences and supporting others in their mental health recovery journeys. I am, as they say, “paying it forward.”
I don’t think that the other 96% of people with psychiatric disabilities deserve to be forgotten and I just know you don’t either. Together, you and I can help many more people beat the odds. Wouldn’t that be a good way to start the New Year?
Sincerely and passionately,