Residents and Companions
House of Healing is my Home of Homes. I’ve gone through House of Healing 2 times, and have so many special relationships from my experience there that have been important to my mental health.
The first time was in 2006. I stopped taking the medicine for schizophrenia and tried to kill myself by starving myself for over 5 months. My family didn’t know what to do with me. My family brought me to Harborview and I started to get help. I couldn’t walk – I had to be in a wheelchair as I had shrunk down to 70 lbs.
One day while I was at Harborview, a social worker told me about House of Healing – the name of it just brightened me up. There was one condition; I had to walk up and down stairs. So for a week and a half, I worked on building my strength. Every day I would walk up and down the halls, practicing and getting ready. I was still using a walker when I first came to HoH, but I kept working at it and building my strength. Each time I took these steps, I knew what my destination was.
The first time I came to the House of Healing, I walked in and felt, “I’m alive!” and was overwhelmed with gratefulness. I was Home. I saw the Red Door – It was so great. But I was still in a daze. How would I exist here? I stayed in my room and tried to sleep and find quiet and heal. At dinners, everyone would talk about their Gratitudes, and it wasn’t anything I understood, but I tried anyway.
The 2nd time I came, I was waking up every day wanting to kill myself because my alcoholic husband was using up all our money and was abusive.. I had nowhere to go. Luckily, I was involved with a community companion named Deb and was able to reach out to Chris and Jacob about possibly returning to the House. I knew it was for my benefit and my health, and to be able to survive in the world. And I was even more grateful for the time to heal. I developed more relationships that were really meaningful to me. Every day at dinners, I would look around to the people around the table, and so many days when that day had been a horrible one, those dinners were the best part of the day, to enjoy each other, and be involved with each other.
But time passes, and people move on and others come through, getting their own apartment or going off in their own way, and I began to miss those connections I had made at House of Healing. I have some art skills, and had never really sketched people before, but I wanted to give it a try. I asked Julia to sit with me out in the House of Healing garden and it was a really beautiful experience. The sun glowed on her face! I showed it to her and she said “This is beautiful!” and I was thrilled.
So what if I captured the people I knew and loved, and had so much meaning for me at House of Healing, and now Hofmann house? So I took on the project to capture their faces. I’ve captured those that have been meaningful to me. I know their characters and their personalities, and I try to capture them. And when one of them says, “This is Me!”, it gives me so much joy.
I get to sit down and talk with them, and get to know them better, being alive with them in person in front of me, and renew our friendship.
I’ve built confidence from what Julia gave me in her reaction, and I look forward to each time I get to sketch my friends.
And for them, they get to see how I feel about them and offer a physical piece of my gratitude. I think it’s important to display them at House of Healing, too. When you come to House of Healing, it’s important to know that you won’t just pass through. You will be remembered here for who you are.
I have such a significant memory of sitting with one of the companions, Flannery, when I was in crisis and afraid of my husband. She said, “I’m here for you.” These moments of care and support are so special. And as I move on, I have this journal of them, as they are still with me each day, and I know I am not alone. They are part of my life.
I learned about the House of Healing and Plymouth Healing Communities at a Christmas party, from Jim Gore who was a family friend and a past board member. I was still in college and had an interest in psychology, and Jim suggested being a resident companion at the House of Healing once I graduated.
It’s hard to describe a place like the House of Healing, and to articulate in words what that experience looks like.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I went through the interviews and then the last few months of college I got the call and accepted the position, and I was really looking forward to it, but I was also really nervous and kind of scared. I didn’t know what to expect.
I grew up on Queen Anne and felt pretty sheltered and privileged, and I found that I had built up some stigma about those with mental illness. Were they going to be violent or aggressive to me? Would I be safe? The staff at PHC really helped me understand that we are all human together, and that we all share some kind of mental illness. We all want the same things – to be loved and accepted for who we are.
My first day coming to the House of Healing is a memory I’ll never forget. I felt so welcomed by Rebecca and Angie and Peter, as they followed me upstairs and stood outside my room. I remember Angie and Rebecca making cake in the kitchen, and feeling the warmth and joy of the house so immediately. I served as a resident companion for a bit over a year, and now I am a community companion, and still come back to House of Healing every week for Marcy’s waffles and community dinners. I’ve heard residents and companions describe that they felt like they didn’t find the House of Healing—that the House of Healing found them. This is how I feel.
The community of residents and companions means everything to me. It has allowed me, through being with people from different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences, to reflect on not just what it means to live with mental illness but more perhaps more about what it means to be human.
My time at the House of Healing allowed me to learn how to cook Ethiopian food with two residents from Ethiopia, Abreham and Abraham, to make egg stew with injera, sils, and to learn how to say “hello” (“endentna”). I didn’t know how to cook, but Marcy told me you need to put your love in your cooking, and it’s all about sharing love with others. This community has helped me to understand the power of relationships in my life.
I just moved into my own apartment, and I work in the Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine unit at Seattle Children’s now, helping kids and families navigate the struggles of mental illness. My manager has said that they hired me because of the perspective I can offer from my experience at the House of Healing. I often tell kids that while they might not feel it now, that there is always hope – that healing and recovery is a long road, and that it takes work, but it is possible.
I am so proud to be a part of this community, and I am so grateful to all that make this community what it is.