My Life is Simple and Beautifully Full
Recovery, Life, Beautiful, Stigma, Education, Individuals, Clients, Families, Treatment, Healthcare, People, Experiences, Recovery is Beautiful, Treatment Works, People Recover, Blueprint, Recovery Vision, Recovery-Oriented System of Care, ROSC
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My Life is Simple and Beautifully Full

Kate Ertl (2)


I was born into a large family where mental illness, alcoholism and violent suicides are prevalent.  Daily life was unpredictable and that was my norm.

For a long time I was undiagnosed and untreated. Those years were difficult.

Late in 2004 and into 2005, I experienced the loss of six family members: my folks six days apart.  Then on Valentine’s Day in 2006 my dear sister, Joanne passed away from a seven year fight with Inflammatory Breast Cancer; an incurable and rare form of cancer.

In the last five weeks of 2005, I faced a huge turning point in my life.  As terrible as this time was for me, I eventually came to realize that this was the beginning of the best years of my life.

Sometime after Joanne’s death in 2006, I sought counseling.  Before long I was diagnosed with a mental illness.

Dissatisfied with my diagnosis, I went to another doctor and eventually to a third.  Each doctor’s conclusions were the same.  I didn’t think this was possible. None of them knew what the other’s findings were.  Their results upset and angered me.   I felt devastated, worthless, and hopeless.  I was in denial.

When I started to accept that I had a mental illness, it was tough.

I attended counseling regularly and willingly.  This seemed my one and only hope.  By my second or third session I realized there wasn’t going to be an easy fix or a happy pill.  If I was to get better it would be up to me; along with the guidance of my therapist.  Making sense of an entire lifetime was confusing, messy, and seemed impossible. It was work.

At the same time I was struggling with physical issues.  As I learned more about my over-all health, I became better able to work with my doctors.  I began understanding and accepting more about my illnesses.  My physical and mental conditions were slowly improving, tho most of the time I felt I was going nowhere.

I took my meds, kept a healthy diet, and exercise program in place.  I devoured self-help books approved by my therapist.  I sought out positive sayings and verses.  I took photos and worked on my art.  I was able to go to the beach often – sitting on the end of the break wall, letting my thoughts drift.  I began taking care of myself.  I did the “right things.”  Gradually, I could see small improvements but I couldn’t shake the darkness I felt since childhood.

Failing at suicide, I thought about it daily.  I researched and learned there were hundreds of ways to “do it.”  Many methods were quite creative and bizarre.  But I wasn’t looking for complicated.  Simple, quick, and sure was my objective.  Being prepared in all regards was important to me.  I didn’t want  family burdened with details or loose ends.  All was meticulously worked out and regularly updated.  Plans A, B, and C were reviewed and tweaked till no more tweaking was necessary, maybe even possible.

At this time I was also going to Every Women’s House and attending group regularly.   This is where I was given my first calendar of MOCA House programming.

“Writing for Wellness,” sounded interesting, so I began attending.  The group was wonderful.  Before long “tie dye” caught my attention on the calendar and I showed up.  Gradually, I became a MOCA House regular.

As the months passed I was feeling more comfortable and started attending daily.  I was finding that other Mocans shared similar experiences.  We talked, laughed, learned, and grew at MOCA House.  They “got” me.  MOCA House staff, fellow Mocans, recovery groups, and an array of activities there have enriched my life.

Family and good friends are important.  Having a skilled and compassionate psychiatrist and therapist at the Counseling Center, as well as a terrific Case Manager has made a difference too.

But MOCA House has enabled me to pull it all together.  To move forward in ways best suited for me.  Negative thoughts have drifted away.  The powerfully painful depression I’ve had since childhood is greatly improved and mostly gone.

A good combination of medication and treatment has made a difference in my life.  I am more settled and consistent; learning where and how I excel.  I understand more clearly who I am and can now utilize my skills and talents.  I’m beginning to give back to others.  All supports are vital to my wellbeing and stability.

No longer do I think about my “plans” for an end.

My life is simple and beautifully full.


– Kate