Stories from the Heart!
The long awaited answer to my prayers.
Four years ago, I partnered with my NAMI pal, Bill McClung to learn more about an organization we had discovered in our mental health advocacy work, Clubhouse International. We traveled with a group to Greenville, SC to visit a premier Clubhouse, Gateway, to see for ourselves how a day in a Clubhouse operates. We were very impressed and immediately sold on the concept. Hence, Bill and I began making our plans to start one in the Atlanta area. I thought, finally, a place that made sense and just might be the answer for my son and for the many individuals like him.
My story in mental health advocacy started over 30 years ago. My son, Bo, was, and still is my motivator. In his years of struggles and trying to navigate the world each day, we learned a whole lot about the mental health system. We found little to offer, but we sure did try! Bo was in many placements, too numerous to count. Each one promising assurance of healing, rehab and recovery. I am confident in saying that in our experience, we found that most of the treatment programs we encountered were synthetic and stifled rather than promoted a person’s self-esteem, strengths and abilities.
Bo was so frustrated with the lack of services. He was tired of the many lonely and aimless hours he spent riding on MARTA, wanting the job and the life he observed around him. He would say to me time and time again that there was no place out there for him.
The heart is our core. It is the innermost and central part of our emotions, feelings and, our being. It’s where we love, feel loved and connect with others. Our heart is where we carry the special things that we cherish and hold dear. Bo strongly influenced me and was a major part of my life. My heart shattered in the wee hours of a September morning in 2020. The chilling ring broke our silent slumber and a canopy of dread crashed down upon us. It was THE call. We listened disoriented and dumbfounded as the chaplain’s voice uttered, Bo is gone.
With God’s help, I am gathering up the broken pieces and putting my heart back together again, each piece representing someone dear to me.. Bo’s piece fits perfectly in the center etched with his handprint. As I reorient myself to my new life without Bo, I’m finding that my heart is stronger, more seasoned and somewhat larger than before. Guess that’s what happens when you’ve experienced a painful and life-changing loss. You seem to be more keenly aware of the losses and troubles of others around you and they somehow find their way into your heart as well.
Bo is not gone, his spirit lives on. He will continue with me on my journey to establish the place he so badly needed, and the place I wanted for him. I am reminded of him everytime I pass a box of Goober’s in the grocery store, hear a song by Tool, or see a MARTA bus go by. But, it will be his voice echoing in my head that will inspire me and drive me in my determination. Bo said to me on the last day I spoke with him, and many, many times before, “you aren’t listening, you don’t understand, I need a place to go where I will be accepted and understood. I want to work, have friends and have a meaningful life.” No more placements!
Oh, but Bo, I was listening to you. I had just the place. It just didn’t open soon enough for you. Clubhouse Atlanta is open now and is the answer to long awaited prayers. To God be the glory!
-Susie Kyle, Board Co-President