Debra’s Story

Each of our residents has a unique and interesting story. These stories make us here at Housing Options so proud of what we do. Not only are our residents on their own journeys to recovery, but they are engaged with making the community around them a better place as well.

Like many, Debra started to experience symptoms of her mental illness in her late teens, when she was still in high school. When she left for college her symptoms became more severe and she started to suffer from severe paranoia and isolation from her peers. Eventually, her symptoms became too much for Debra and her parents to handle, and her family had no choice but to take her to the hospital. Debra was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder, and her long road to recovery began.

Debra spent much of her twenties in hospitals, battling the symptoms of her illness. In 1998, at the end of a five year stay in a hospital, Debra was referred to an institution for mental disease (IMD) in Evanston. Debra remembers her time at the IMD as a fairly bleak period in her life. She participated in cooking classes and bible study, but remembers the equipment for these groups as lacking, and describes the overly structured days as being forced to do basic things like get out of bed and eat at predetermined times rather than live her own life. To Debra, her time at the IMD was very similar to a hospital stay, there was time to rest but there was also little opportunity to make her own decisions and live a full life. She does recall though, that “as hard as it was, as much as I hated it, there was something healing about it.”

In 2000, however, Debra’s parents found out about Housing Options, and she was able to enter our residential program. For Debra, the transition proved to be “a miracle.” For Debra, though, the little things, like being able to cook her own breakfast and having money to spend on magazines and clothing, are what really differentiate her life with Housing Options from the time she spent at the IMD. Working with Housing Options case managers and support staff has also allowed Debra to almost completely control her illness, and she is now engaged with the community in ways she hadn’t been since leaving college.

Indeed, Debra received a scholarship to Oakton Community College and is once again attending college classes in hopes of getting her associate’s degree and becoming a teacher’s aide and is working part time. Debra’s journey has been long and arduous, but with the support and encouragement of Housing Options staff she has been able to rebuild her life, and continue in pursuit of her goals.