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Tue, June 18

Recovery road leads local woman to NAZCARE's 'warmline'<BR>

She had a learning disability, she added, and had "no skills as a child. I had no friends, and I had a really tough time in school. At home, I enjoyed doing the wash because it was something that took me out of the family situation and into a make-believe world. It was an escape."

Buell had her first major breakdown when she was only 18, and said one of her teachers talked to her father about her, which really upset her.

"I ran away from school, but got scared and went back," she added.

Buell got married when she was 21 years old and had four children. When she was 32, she had a major breakdown that led to a month-long stay in a hospital.

She said she "couldn't take care of my family," and she was so depressed that "I was physically paralyzed. I couldn't speak. The depression took over my whole body."

After leaving the hospital, Buell saw a psychiatrist, who "only told me I was gaining too much weight and that I needed to lose weight. I thought that was very strange."

Buell, who also has borderline personality disorder, had another breakdown in 1992. She said she quit the job she had at that time and wound up at the Hillside Center at West Yavapai Guidance Clinic for a year.

This was the period in Buell's life she refers to as her "wild woman days. I didn't want to live, so I found anything I could to cut myself with."

She spent time in other hospitals as well, and said her case manager and daughter had to make decisions for her.

When Buell was at West Yavapai Guidance Clinic about three years ago, she said, "the staff and my doctor's persistence saved my life. They never said anything discouraging to me about my illness."

She stayed at the Psychiatric Health Facility (PHF) at Hillside for about six months, and then ended up in two other hospitals.

Buell said she received a letter from West Yavapai Guidance Clinic about a class called "Wellness Recovery Action Plan" (WRAP), which helps people with mental illnesses come up with a personal plan that will lead toward recovery.

She took the class "to see where the next step was, and to see if I could take another step up in my recovery. It was rough because I wasn't in a good place, but I was in a good enough place to write my plan."

Then she took a class called "training the trainers," where she learned to be a co-facilitator at West Yavapai Guidance Clinic in the Community Living Education (CLE) department. She started facilitating two classes a week, which her doctors and case managers said was too much for her to handle.

"I said, 'no it's not. I want to do this,'" she said.

When Buell was taking the WRAP class, somebody mentioned a "warmline" (an after hours phone support line) at the New Hope Recovery Center in Prescott, and she was interested in working on the warmline.

"I thought, 'that's neat. I'll do that.' I was tired of having just enough money for the month," she said. "I wanted a job."

Buell said she was reluctant at first, but Kathy Peterson, CEO of NAZCARE, encouraged her to work for the warmline, and told her she would make a good phone line coordinator.

She attended a training course in Tucson in January, then returned to start up the warmline, which began in April.

One of the reasons she started the warmline is she knows the importance of being able to talk to somebody.

"When I was really sick, I needed to talk to someone at night. I just needed to hear a voice and have someone tell me to take my medications and go to bed."

Working at the New Hope Recover Center "gave me confidence in myself," Buell said. "I haven't been in the hospital in two years."

Buell now does presentations at the PHF every week, teaches WRAP classes and works nearly full time at the New Hope Recovery Center.

"We're kind of like a family here," she added. "This is a place to get support."

Whether Buell is teaching a class or working individually with a person who has a mental illness, she said she feels really good about helping.

"If people are feeling suicidal, I ask them the same questions they (professionals) used to ask me. Maybe they just need to talk to someone or just cry. Talking one on one with them helps me remember where I came from and it's not always easy. I know I'm myself, but I can remember everything I've been through, and I'm a different person now."

Buell said she is happier now than she has ever been in her life. Someone once told her, "'you can't do anything you're not ready for.' It took me time to go through each step and it took a lot of encouragement. I look back now, and I think I grew a little at a time."

Even in the process of recovery, if a person takes a few steps in the wrong direction, Buell said it is still part of recovery because "even if you take a few steps back, you know when you step forward."

Being in recovery "takes a lot of work and encouragement from friends and family. My daughter says, "'I have three children, but now I have two because you're all grown up.'"

Buell added, "I used to be in this deep, black hole with slippery sides. I finally got out of that. I'm on the other side now, and I've never been this happy in my life."

Contact the reporter at rbump@prescottaz.com

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