Real stories

Mary's Story

“Every day—every moment— in treatment was a new experience and my life continues to be a new experience that is forever unfolding...”

As an adult in her 50s, Mary has lived a life marked by a heart-breaking history of abuse, alcoholism, physical injuries, medical trauma and more. Over the years, these hardships added up and led to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With 30 years of experience as a mental health advocate, she has a profound passion for helping others. But it wasn’t until a community member offered to advocate on Mary’s behalf that she decided to seek treatment for her own unaddressed problems.

“Having someone step forward and offer to be my advocate was the push I needed,” says Mary. After completing her screening, the treatment team determined she would be a good fit for the PTSD partial hospital program at Rogers Memorial Hospital–Brown Deer.

With the costs of many surgeries and medical bills taking a toll on Mary’s finances, she was worried about how she would afford mental healthcare. “After I found out my insurance wouldn’t cover the program, I opted to do the intake anyway because my life was on the line.”

Mary, her advocate and treatment team then began working with Rogers Memorial Hospital Foundation, which helps individuals in need access programming through patient care grants. Thanks to donor support, Mary was able to receive four weeks of treatment at no cost. “I didn’t believe it was really even happening,” she says.

Even with much experience in the mental health world, Mary was unsure what to expect out of her own treatment. “I knew I was there for myself and I needed to get as much out of the program as I could,” she says. “But when I walked into the room on the first day, I had tears in my eyes when I saw so many young people dealing with the same, painful struggles I’ve had my whole life.”

The program’s one-on-one therapy, team approach and focus on physical touch were particularly helpful to Mary. “I’ve been through different treatment programs in the Milwaukee area, across Wisconsin and in different parts of the country, but I’ve never felt as welcomed or wanted as I did at Rogers,” she says. “The team genuinely believed in me and cared about me."

Mary said the members of her treatment team treated her, not her diagnosis. “It was about who I was and what I needed,” she says. “It was about my history and my journey. It wasn’t about me being defective.”

While in programming, Mary received the BizTimes Hometown Healthcare Hero Award for her service to others. “I didn’t want to go to the ceremony because I didn’t feel like a hero,” she says. But with encouragement from members of her treatment team, Mary decided to go to the event and personally accept her well-deserved award.

Having completed her programming at Rogers, one of the biggest changes Mary notices in herself is a new tone in her sarcasm. “I’m a witty person and there’s always going to be a sarcastic part of me, but the edge is gone because I don’t have to be on guard or use it as a way to protect myself anymore.”

Mary is looking forward to joining Habitat for Humanity and putting her creativity and love for building to good use. She is also in the process of creating an organization that helps raise funds for nonprofit organizations with help from local businesses, all while supporting those with mental illness or substance abuse.

To others who are afraid of seeking treatment because of costs, Mary suggests making the call and requesting a screening. “Your life comes first and it will all work out,” she says. “Every day—every moment— in treatment was a new experience and my life continues to be a new experience that is forever unfolding as a result of treatment.”