Buckelew News

Hayly's story

posted: Thursday, August 20, 2015

"I have mental illness, but I don’t want mental illness to have me.”

Hayly is one of those naturally funny people, with a warm and infectious laugh, and full of energy. Talking to her, one would not guess that she struggles with severe depression at times, exacerbated by challenging physical ailments that often make it painful for her to be active. Slowing down is hard for Hayly, a graduate of Buckelew Programs, who talks fast and has a quick wit:

“I’ve always looked at my mania as energy. I thought everybody else was just moving so slowly, it would drive me nuts…”

Hayly was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her early 20’s, after she’d been self-medicating with alcohol and drugs for years – a struggle that would continue for a while. After spending six years on the street in Washington State with her abusive boyfriend, she relocated to California in September 2004 to start over. While staying at a women’s shelter in Santa Rosa, she learned about Project Hope, the AB2034 funded project that provided outreach, shelter, housing and mental health services to people with mental illness who were homeless. Hayly had been on the waiting list for a section 8 housing voucher in Washington and was ecstatic to find out that it could be transferred here. Opportunity House, a home-like shelter for people with mental health issues, offered her a safe place to stay, and she began looking for housing with the help of her Buckelew counselor.

In November 2004, a 1 bedroom townhouse became available at a Burbank Housing complex that partners with Buckelew, and on January 25, 2005, Hayly finally moved into her new place.

“At first when I moved into my apartment, I wanted to go right back out and be homeless. I was in a state of shock, it didn’t feel real. Everything was brand new,” she remembers.

But Hayly settled in quickly, with the help of her counselor, who encouraged her to get a cat right away. The kitty has remained a treasured companion to this day:

“My cat is there when no one else is. And I have something that I need to be responsible for.”

Having a safe, affordable home after many years of homelessness was a turnaround in Hayly’s life that set her on a path of recovery and success. She became actively involved with peer support, and through the client council helped organize events at Buckelew Programs, including the wildly successful Variety Show where she acted as the MC and sang. After her graduation from Buckelew services, she joined the NAMI speakers bureau, became a board member at Community Housing Sonoma County, and is currently volunteering as an on-call job coach for Buckelew Employment Services.

“With Buckelew Programs, I can be who I am. The staff took the time to stop, slow down, care, ask, and be consistent with their support. I started to love myself a lot more. I have mental illness, but I don’t want mental illness to have me.”

Things aren’t always easy, but Hayly now has the resources and tools to get through her dark days. One of the most powerful parts of her healing journey has been mending fences with her family, who for a long time was in denial about her mental illness. Today, Hayly’s mother is a teacher for NAMI’s Family-to-Family program. What’s next? There’s a lot of things Hayly wants to do: volunteer for a suicide prevention hotline, learn Spanish and Sign Language, get a college degree. With her determination and perseverance, there’s no doubt she can do it.

Hayly's story