Diane's Story: Refusing to Be Silenced
Diane grew up in Long Island, New York, in the 60s and 70s and comes from a large Italian family. Her engaging personality, wonderful sense of humor, and “realness” align well with her metropolitan New York accent. While Diane holds some fond memories of her youth, she also experienced unimaginable hardship at a young age — pain that set in motion the mental health battles she has fought throughout her life.
“Growing up I was home a lot by myself,” Diane explained. “Kids called me wild when I was growing up, so that is what I became.”
Diane’s parents were divorced, and she suffered various forms of abuse. When she built up enough courage to tell someone how she was being hurt, she was blamed. At 14 years old, she went into a pharmacy, bought a bottle of aspirin, and tried to take her own life. She was told she did it for attention. Even when Diane got older and went to the hospital to address her deteriorating mental health, she felt the doctors didn’t truly hear her. She was misdiagnosed with depression and borderline personality disorder.
For much of her adult life, Diane’s mental health interrupted the goals she wanted to accomplish. She suffered from manic episodes and lashed out. Diane was eventually accurately diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but side effects from treatment hampered her. Finally, three years ago, a breakthrough came in the form of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
“I have not been hospitalized in over three years, where I was being hospitalized two, three times a year. I like myself,” said Diane, as a large smile grew on her face. “I like who I am. I don’t think I ever liked myself.”
After the medical treatment gave Diane her life back, she was ready to find the tools, confidence, and resources she needed to improve her financial situation. And Seattle Goodwill was there to help.
Diane came to Goodwill’s Seattle Job Training and Education Center (JTEC) in 2019 after being referred there by a neighbor. She was assigned a case manager, who carefully listened to Diane and worked with her to develop a path forward. Then Diane enrolled in Goodwill’s free Customer Service and Microsoft Word classes.
“I didn’t have a resume, so I went to Goodwill and signed up for classes,” Diane explained. “My case manager at Goodwill really helped me a lot. They helped me get glasses, which I desperately needed. They helped me get food with gift cards. Anything I needed, they were there for – driver's license renewal, food handlers permit. It’s not just that kind of stuff, but they encouraged me. They helped with my confidence and said, ‘Yes, you can do this.’”
Seattle Goodwill’s support services alleviated some of the heavy life pressure Diane was carrying so she could focus on her education and improving her life. Ultimately, Diane wanted to return to the social service-type work she had done 20 years prior, but she had trouble finding work and knew a degree would make herself more marketable.
Diane didn’t know where to start. After a customer service job didn’t work out, a Seattle Goodwill JTE staff member proposed an idea. To bolster her experience, Diane was offered a volunteer role at the Seattle JTE center where she helped other Goodwill students alongside staff. College was the next step for Diane. Seattle Goodwill told her about the state’s Basic Food, Employment, and Training (BFET) program, which provides funding assistance to basic food recipients. The program covered Diane’s first quarter of tuition, and JTE staff helped her register for classes at Seattle Central Community College where she is studying to earn her Associate's Degree in Social Services.
“Goodwill had prepared me to get ready to go to school,” Diane said. “After not doing anything for a couple years or more, they got me in a routine of getting up every day, going to class, taking it serious. They helped with my self-esteem. If Goodwill didn’t exist in Seattle … I mean, there are different kinds of programs, but not like Goodwill. It’s really unique. Goodwill is more than just training. It’s the support. It’s the encouragement.”
Today, Diane refuses to be silenced. She is outspoken about the importance of strong mental health and hopes her story can help today’s younger generation. She is thankful for the medical treatment that changed her life and the direction, compassion, and care she has received from the Goodwill team.
“It’s important for me to talk about mental health issues, because there is a stigma that had affected me in the past,” Diane said. “I want people to be able to talk about it and not be ashamed. After all I’ve been through, I finally like myself, and I’m going to school and fulfilling a goal. I will be getting my associate's degree, and I think that’s amazing. I struggled, it’s a challenge, but I’m doing it.”