Kathleen is happy in the garden. She smiles. She greets people as they walk by. Gardening keeps the paralyzing, black visions and fear at bay.
The recession hit Kathleen and her husband hard. She lost her job, her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and her 90-year-old father needed care. While standing in the drug store on errands for her parents, Kathleen was gripped by vicious memories of her childhood molestation. A whiff of Old Spice cologne brought them rushing in.
“Blackness closed in around me and I saw four men. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. I was paralyzed with fear and I didn’t know why,” she recalled. Kathleen turns pale and her eyes gleam with tears as she recounts that terrible time.
The visions and night dreams happened more frequently. Katherine became afraid to sleep. She made a plan to kill herself.
In her despair, she lashed out at a friend who tried to buck up her spirits with some plain talk. Kathleen stole two valuable items because she wanted to teach her friend a lesson. “I wanted her to know what it felt like to be innocent and have something taken from her. My friend didn’t deserve that.
“When I was arrested I was lucky the judge required me to come to Mental Health Care’s crisis unit for an evaluation. As soon as I got out I was going to go to a hotel and kill myself,” Kathleen said.
On CSU, Kathleen met CJ Jones, mental health tech. “I didn’t need sympathy. I needed the hard, cold facts and I got them from CJ. He told me I was strung out on the pain meds I’d been taking for my restless legs. He said, ‘You don’t have anywhere to go. You haven’t really thought it through.’ He was right.”
Kathleen agreed to move into MHC’s Transitional Living Center where she and Jack Cox, MHC licensed clinical therapist, created a safety plan she uses when the black dreams come at night. Writing down the dream and her feelings calms her down.
She flashes a sheepish grin. “When I calm down I now write down what I want to do in the garden. I can see my progress in my journal and in my garden. If I have a vision, I can go out into the gardens. It’s not as good as talking it through with Jack—but almost,” she said.
Now a resident at MHC’s Graham Home assisted living, Kathleen has learned to sleep at night, she lost 30 pounds and she’s learning how to crochet. She’s expanded her green realm from the small plots behind Graham Home to the entire Seminole Heights campus. No green thing goes without her loving attention.
“Kathleen has gotten Lowe’s to donate some plants and supplies for her gardens. She works out there all day—even Saturdays and Sundays,” said Mary Myles, Graham Home program manager. “She needed therapeutic support to recover from her abuse and post-traumatic stress. She’s a go-getter to get better! She’s working on it.”
“I don’t know anything about green things. It’s trial and error! My husband comes over on the weekends and he helps me trim the trees. I’m happy! I’m looking forward to moving home with my husband in a few months.”