In her own words: Bert Nash board member Elizabeth Sheils shares her story of recovery

Elizabeth Sheils likes the team approach at Bert Nash.

Elizabeth Sheils likes the team approach at Bert Nash. by Jeff Burkhead

Starting in 1982, I had been in and out of hospitals. When I first was diagnosed with mental illness, I was a graduate student at the University of Kansas. During the first phase of my illness, I was teaching at KU and had won a Fulbright to go to Mexico to collect data for my degree. I had earned two master’s degrees and was working on my dissertation when my illness made it impossible for me to continue in the program. I was lost and went to private practitioners. My illness was overcoming me. I felt isolated. 


At the time, the “medical” model was widely in use. What this means is that I was not part of my treatment plan. I took several medications, some to counteract the side effects of other medicines. I was a zombie. The doctors and nurses at the hospitals told me I would never live on my own. I would live in a nursing home or state institution. I was going down after having had a successful career. 


With much reluctance and warnings from my outside practitioners, who claimed I would fall through the cracks, I entered the program at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center. I continued to see a psychologist and psychiatrist in private practice, but I now had a case manager at Bert Nash. This was the turning point in my life. 


My case manager talked to me for a few visits and then asked me to fill out a strengths assessment (which looks at your strengths rather than the deficits) with her. This was the first time anyone had asked me what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I was cautious and a bit bewildered because I thought the course of my life had already been determined. First, I said that I wanted to continue living on my own. She wrote that down. She then asked me what else I wanted to do, and I said I would like to do some kind of work. Again, she wrote that down. My case manager referred me to a job support specialist at Bert Nash. 


Soon my case manager also became my therapist. I began to receive all my services at Bert Nash. The community support services gave me an outlet to socialize and I made friends. My new psychiatrist at Bert Nash took me off the many medications I had been taking for years. I began to feel alive again. I became a part of my treatment plan. I was told of possible side effects before I decided to take a medication or not. What was important was that the doctor at Bert Nash listened to me, and helped me feel better. 


My case manager/therapist became a team leader. I like the team approach at Bert Nash because other therapists and case managers offer suggestions for my recovery. 


At Bert Nash, all bases are covered. I have a therapist, case manager and job specialist and attend weekly groups. Now it is up to me to make a go of this. I worked for the School of Social Welfare at KU as an independent contractor, which meant I was a co-trainer for evidence-based practices, such as supported employment specialist and case management training. Currently, I am self-employed as a consultant/speaker/advocate. I am also on the Governing Board of Directors at Bert Nash.

I am enjoying my jobs. I feel much better about myself and my involvement in the community. And thanks to Bert Nash, I now have a better quality of life.

— Elizabeth Sheils

A turning point in Sheils' life came when she started receiving services at Bert Nash.

A turning point in Sheils' life came when she started receiving services at Bert Nash. by Jeff Burkhead

Serving on the Bert Nash Governing Board of Directors is a way to give back to the community, Sheils said.

Serving on the Bert Nash Governing Board of Directors is a way to give back to the community, Sheils said. by Jeff Burkhead

Comments

hartcindy 1 year, 4 months ago

Elizabeth, you are such an inspiration! Thank you so much for sharing your story and for all you do for the Bert Nash Center!

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