Mike's Story: To Overcome
Mike is not a person who talks openly about his disability or his experience overcoming mental illness to return to work. And yet, given the opportunity, he shared openly, because he sees the value in telling his story. Mike speaks out in hopes that others who have mental illness will find the courage to connect to services and supports and overcome their fears about returning to work.
Mike’s story is a success story: one about courage, resilience and persistence. Through Ticket to Work he found a full-time, professional position where he has been successfully working for 4 years.
Mike’s life has been a struggle, but he talks about the challenges he has faced with levity and a healthy dose of humor. “It’s a good thing there is no ‘three knock-out rule’ in life. I’ve been knocked out way more than three times, but I keep getting back up.” Mike doesn’t exaggerate about the traumatic circumstances of his youth or the impact mental illness has had on the course of his education and career. Mike considers it fortunate to be alive today, as there were many days he did not want to live.
But as Mike says, he is a fighter. He sought treatment in order to heal from his past. He returned to school after having dropped out, to complete his GED, Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. He went on to a career in customer service, where he excelled and advanced into management.
It was at this time that Mike experienced a relapse which put him out of work. He describes this period in his life as an all-time low. For eight years he was unable to work, which undermined his financial security, but more notably, his sense of self-worth.
As a part of his recovery, he sought out Ticket to Work services with The Choice Group. Mike worked with his Vocational Counselor to update his resume and cover letter, practice interview skills, and network to find a full-time position. The Choice Group assisted Mike to understand his Social Security Disability benefits and find the supportive work environment he was looking for.
This year, Mike is celebrating his four-year anniversary of working at LTC Solutions. LTC Solutions is a small, unique employer that embraces diversity and saw the potential in Mike to become a valuable member of their team. Their managers partner with The Choice Group in an effort to create jobs for persons with disabilities and integrate them in every part of their business. “LTC was able to match my skill set with the work they already had.” Mike says, “They never asked whether I had a disability, but wanted to know what abilities I had.” Mike’s managers at LTC Solutions took the time to listen to his story, be patient with his training and develop his potential. And this investment paid off for them Mike is now essential to their operations and a colleague they enjoy working with.
Mike is open about the fact that he still experiences fluctuations in his mental health; He attributes his success to persistence and the strong support system he has created. This support network includes his family, mental health supports and The Choice Group. Mike shares that asking for help has been essential for his maintaining health and employment. He also points out that finding an employer like LTC Solutions has helped him to regain his confidence and rebuild his career.
Mike points out that there are many other people out there with the same struggles. “Someone else out there is feeling the way I did, and I want them to pick up the phone and call someone. You aren’t alone and there are people here who can help. If I can do it, you can too.” He says that anyone, if they have courage and support, can succeed. “A mental health diagnosis doesn’t have to hold you back... Take a leap and get back to the life you had once before, or some semblance of it.”