All of our members are wonderful in their own ways, but some have talents that can be showcased. This will be a series, in which we invite you to meet our members.
Harry is an example of one of our veterans, with the all too pervasive PTSD, though in his case, it was not acquired directly, through military service:
Harry was born into a military family. His older brother was his confidant and role model. They were so close that they shared an intuitive bond. One day, his brother who was home on military leave, didn’t come home. The soldier had been attacked and murdered, at home, on his own turf, by his own countrymen! Eleven year old Harry was called to identify his brother’s body. The trauma was so intense that the young boy, developed PTSD — though at the time, he could not know it, or why he was isolating.
As he came of age, Harry followed in his brother’s footsteps, joining the army. He was posted to Germany as a Radar tech with a top secrecy clearance. A close friend serving with him, bought a motorcycle, and fixed it up beautifully: It was his pride and joy. On his very first ride, he was hit by a truck in a fatal accident. This was another trauma to Harry, and compounded his initial PTSD.
When he was discharged, he could not get his life together, was in and out of jobs, dropped out of college and eventually became homeless. He was actually living in a park in Pittsburgh, at one stage! Going to the Presbyterian Good Shepherd Shelter to shower one day, he learned of their program. He was sent for psychological evaluation and diagnosed with PTSD and depression. This qualified him for the rehabilitation program and soon he was working at the Community foodbank, and studying at the Pittsburgh Seminary, but he was not receiving any help for his Mental Health.
It wasn’t until he was again diagnosed with PTSD and depression at the VA hospital that he was put on medication. His health soon improved, but thinking he was cured, he stopped taking his meds. It wasn’t long before he was homeless again. He dropped out of the Pittsburgh Seminary, in East Liberty and started self-medicating with alcohol and drugs. In a downward spiral, he landed up in the VA hospital again. Fortunately, he received the care he needed and went on to live with his niece while he returned to college, graduating from Geneva College in 2008.
However, when someone gave him a case of beer to celebrate, he fell off the bandwagon again, and landed up in the VA hospital a third time. Again, he received the mental health and alcoholic treatment he needed. He got his certification as a truck driver, and decided to move to Butler. Away from his negative associates, and associations in Pittsburgh, he was on the path to recovery. As he puts it “The VA gave me my life back; CCR gave me hope and Americorps gave me choices.” He has never looked back.
It turns out, Harry’s real mission in life is helping people. Today, he gives back as a Vocational Rehab Specialist at the VA. He is also a Certified Peer Specialist, CRS, and CBES. He has been clean and stable for eight years now. As he avows, “I could not have made it without all the wonderfully supportive organizations in Butler and the wonderful, caring people I have met here who have helped me so much.”
Harry is paying it forward by serving on the Board of Grapevine Center, and volunteers as a Compeer. Grapevine Center is very proud of Harry — he is an example of how RECOVERY IS REAL, and very possible — and we feel very fortunate to have his services. Well done Harry!
October Lowe was born blind. She does not know what colors are, and she has never seen a human being or a dog or a tree, yet October functions remarkably well in this world.
As a child, she had seizures. To October, those seizures felt like electric shocks and she developed a phobia of electricity – fearing that it would set off seizures, and kill her. This phobia meant that she would not touch light switches or any electric appliance whatever, which of course made her life much more difficult than it ought to be. But that is the nature of phobias — prisons of the mind!
Recently, October participated in a WRAP class at the Grapevine, and her facilitator helped her realize that electricity had no connection to her seizures, and she was able to turn electric appliances and lights on and off. How liberating! She was elated and couldn’t stop enthusing about the WRAP class!
October has always been extraordinarily courageous and has done all sorts of things that one would not expect of someone who cannot see: She took up ballet! At first the ballet teacher refused to teach her because she feared that October would hurt herself, but she soon realized that there was no need to worry. October imagined a large clock on the stage and she found her directions based on the positions of the clock!
October participates in many activities at the Grapevine and frequently reads aloud to other members – reading Braille of course.
In addition, she used her attenuated sense of hearing to excel in music and singing. She has a beautiful voice. This writer was amazed when October was able to tell her what the pitch of her and other peoples voices are!
This Easter, October was spotted at First United Methodist Church, participating in the spectacular “Service of the Shadows,” the story of the Last Supper, on Maundy Thursday. There was October, singing with her beautiful voice, and reading the musical score in Braille.
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Eloise Woodward started painting as a means of recovering from her mental illness at the age of 27. She has bi-polar disorder.
The catalyst for her illness was losing a long-standing boyfriend; her father and then her mother within a short time of each other. Chronic anxiety attacks caused her to just fall apart and she landed up in hospital. When she started recovering, in a group home, she turned to her art for both meaning in her life and self-expression.
She had had no previous training other than taking art at school, but her talent soon became evident. Her style is expressionistic and very reminiscent of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” being very bold and passionate.
Going from strength to strength, Eloise now exhibits at the Art Center in Butler (Main St.) and has sold several paintings. She would like to expand her exposure and sales.
Her artistic talent extends to poetry and she has been
experimenting with poetry to express herself, too. Some of her other ambitions are to produce a book of her art, and poetry; go back to school to further her art studies; and in her personal life, to eventually go back to independent living. SPHS has a program of supported independent living which she would love to be able to utilize. The program starts only in 2017, so here’s hoping.
Art has been everything to Eloise. It has been the main impetus in her recovery. It’s amazing how bringing forth that which is inside you can heal you. Someone once said that what you do not bring forth will destroy you. The reverse is also true.