Learning a new way to live, setbacks and all

“I want to be an advocate to let people know that it’s OK to have a mental illness, and you can overcome it.”

“I want to be an advocate to let people know that it’s OK to have a mental illness, and you can overcome it.” by Jeff Burkhead

Walk into Angie Boster’s apartment these days and the window blinds will be open. That never used to happen.

“I didn’t want the outside world seeing me,” she said.

Now she’s not afraid to let the light — or the outside world — in.

2015 was a big year for Boster, 45, and it all started with a decision on New Year’s Day.

“I usually don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but I did last year,” she said. “I told myself this year was going to be different.”

It was.

“It’s like she turned over a new leaf,” said Robert Kortlucke, the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center case manager who worked with Boster. “She made a resolution that she wasn’t going to live like this anymore. That she was going to work on her mental health and stay focused on the things she should be doing.”

In 2014, Boster was hospitalized 13 times, a pattern she had been stuck in for years. She was estranged from her two grown sons. She was in poor physical health, suffering from a stomach ailment that perplexed doctors.

Once they figured out what was going on medically, she started feeling better physically. She also started taking care of her mental health. She attended group therapy sessions at Bert Nash. She put up inspirational messages around her home. She hung the diploma she received from earning her GED as well as her beauty school certificate. She displayed family photos. She wrote down goals for herself and gave them to her caseworker. And she opened the window blinds in her apartment.

Right away, others noticed a difference.

“She wasn’t self-harming, she wasn’t overdosing, she wasn’t going to the hospital,” Kortlucke said. “She was a completely different person.”

Boster felt better, physically and mentally.

“I was happier, more positive,” she said. “There was a time when I wouldn’t go outside my apartment. I didn’t trust anybody. I used to have all these walls built up. Now, it’s like those walls aren’t there anymore.”

Those walls had included her relationship with her sons. They had been estranged for years. Repairing those relationships hasn’t been easy, but, gradually, the walls began to come down. It has been a process of baby steps.

“My youngest son told me if you decide to overdose or kill myself, I just have this to say, it’s on you. He told me about the things he thought I should have taught him when he was growing up. I said I didn’t know how to do those things because my mom didn’t teach me. I said I respect you for telling me this stuff, and it’s OK,” Boster said.

Boster grew up in Florida. After her parents divorced, she and her mom moved around a lot. Change was hard for Boster. Her home life wasn’t very stable. Emotionally, she struggled. She felt different; she felt misunderstood.

“When I was young, I used to think why doesn’t anybody see how I feel inside, why doesn’t somebody ask me if I’m OK,” she said. “Mental illness is not something you choose. As far back as I can remember I have always suffered from mental illness.”

There are still times when Boster will get depressed, even to the point of thinking about self-harm. But she knows she can reach out for help.

“There are things I do to distract myself when I get in that suicidal-thought mode,” she said. “I know now if I need help, or I’m feeling hopeless and I’m depressed and feeling like taking a bunch of pills, all I have to do is pick up the phone and call my caseworker.”

Grateful for the help she has received, Boster wants to share her story in the hopes of encouraging others who are going through similar struggles.

“She’s been through it,” Kortlucke said. “She started talking about wanting to help people who are in the same position. She’s grown a lot and learned a lot of skills, and she wants to give back.”

Mental illness is something Boster has dealt with her entire life. The illness hasn’t gone away, and she still has setbacks. But she is learning how to deal with it.

“There are times I get depressed, but now I know what to do to get myself out of those times. It’s my choice,” she said. “I want to be an advocate to let people know that it’s OK to have a mental illness, and you can overcome it.”

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