Joel, Former Resident
Joel was a resident at Hopewell for 10 months and during his stay found the people and the farm to be very healing.
For him, working hard, taking care of the animals and the garden and watching them grow was very rewarding, both physically and mentally. Participating in maintaining Hopewell gave him a sense of accomplishment.
Now he has a new role at Hopewell. He works in the maintenance department. He loves staying connected with his friends, encouraging residents who need an extra boost and, of course, he enjoys the work.
Michael, Former Resident
Have you ever found yourself at the point of losing control? Maybe it happens when you're in the middle of a heated argument with a loved one or when you're cut off in the middle of traffic. For that split second, the world seems to stop.
Losing control is a terrible feeling, especially when you're forced to look back and deal with the damage. Fortunately, when most people lose control, it's only for a moment. But imagine what it would be like if you lost control for more than that snippet of time.
What if you lost control for an entire day or a month? Imagine what it would be like if you lost control for three years.
I had to live through that period of hell. My family, the... people I held most dear, tried to help with all the love and support that they had. I simply felt that my life was horrible and I blamed everyone else for the way I felt inside. I continued to make the same mistakes again and again.
If you're walking down the sidewalk and you stumble over a crack and fall scraping your knee, you pick yourself back up and learn to avoid that part of the sidewalk. When you have a mental illness, you keep tripping over that same crack in the sidewalk again and again each time reopening your previous scrape causing the wound to grow larger and larger. It's hard to learn from your mistakes.
In September of 2006, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a very stressful year at college. I was angry. For a split second though, the cogs in my head had begun to turn - bipolar disorder could explain a lot of what was wrong with me. Still, despite all of these signs that I had a serious problem, I rejected the concern and advice from my doctors and family.
During that year I had several extravagant shopping sprees followed by deep bouts of depression, isolating myself in my dorm for weeks at a time and ultimately attempting to end my life twice.
I played this game of starting and stopping treatment for two years. My wild personality began to dig into my mother's nerves, giving her far more grey hairs than necessary. But her love kept me alive.
Eventually, I went to a behavioral health retreat where I was able to learn a lot about bipolar disorder. For once, I was able to sit down and identify myself as someone dealing with a mental illness. I left the program knowing I still needed something more. That's when my therapist suggested a small therapeutic farm community in Mesopotamia, Ohio.
As a boy from the suburbs, I was less than thrilled about the idea of going to a farm of any kind. As a Florida boy, I was even less happy about going north where there were seasons that included snow!
When I arrived at Hopewell, I was angry. It was not what I expected at all. It was hard to distinguish the staff from the clients; I had to share living space with a handful of other residents; and we had chores, which I felt was completely unnecessary.
Then my resolve began to break.
From the very first day I arrived, all of the staff members introduced themselves making me feel more than welcome. They were the best, especially the night time staff.
The residents, however, were the ones that really broke down my guard. Everyone wanted to sit next to me during the meals. Our table was always packed and overflowing, filling the dining room with loud raucous laughter.
I found myself joining in all too quickly without reservation and devoid of whatever guise I had first come in with. Although I missed Florida, I actually felt like I was at home.
A Second Chance at Living
As the seasons change and I am able to look back on the several months that have already come and gone since I've been here, I have come to realize many things.
Before coming to Hopewell I had been losing myself in a world of distractions. It was nearly impossible for me to pull myself out of that chaos. I tried a couple of years ago and I nearly lost my life. I was lucky to have so much love and support surrounding me.
Now, I am very lucky to have Hopewell. They have helped me transition from that chaos into a life of peace and serenity. Where I had lost myself in a world of self harm and mental anguish, they have given me an opportunity to find myself.
I have been able to see myself starting healthy relationships with new friends, looking to adult figures for nonjudgmental support and guidance, and most importantly growing both mentally and spiritually.
Hopewell has given me a second chance at living.
Marie, Former Resident
Many years ago, in her mid-teens, Marie began what was to be a long nightmare of frequent hospitalizations, changing diagnoses, loss of employment and quickly deteriorating relationships.
In 2004 she was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a mental illness in which the symptoms of mood disorder and schizophrenia are present. A year later, her family, desperate to find help, discovered Hopewell and convinced her to try it.
Like many Hopewell residents, Marie's path toward recovery was not a straight one.
After several months at the farm, she felt like her symptoms were worsening. Hopewell's psychiatrist suggested a different medication protocol and, though Marie initially resisted it because of the potential weight gain (a side effect), she eventually gave it a chance.
Once the medication stabilized her symptoms, Marie began to engage... in the community. For the majority of our residents and for Marie, this is when Hopewell's natural beauty, supportive and skilled staff and community life begins to work its magic.
Friends are made. Projects are begun and completed. New talents are discovered. Self confidence is built.
"Hopewell was a turning point in my life," says Marie. "I believe that I had to go through what I did to be where I am now." And that "now" is good. Marie is living independently and enjoying family and friends.
Emily, Former Resident
When Emily remembers life before Hopewell, it seemed that mental illness was all she knew.
"My mother didn't know what to do; she kept trying to find the right treatment for me to get better."
That place was most certainly not the hospital Emily was in and out of so frequently. "If you're not crazy when you go in the hospital, you will be when you leave," she believes. "For me it was a very demeaning place."
Then Emily's mother heard about Hopewell.
"When I first got there, I didn't like it, but it didn't take long until I had changed my mind," explains Emily. "It took a couple of weeks of being outside, caring for the animals, being with the staff and residents until I started to realize... that I had a personality inside all the darkness. There was someone in there."
"I would wake up in the morning wondering if any lambs had been born; I became the coordinator of our physical activities like baseball and basketball; I got so much better."
When it was time for Emily to leave, she was heartbroken. "I never got homesick when I was there, but I got Hopewell sick when I left."
Today Emily is an outgoing, bright and energetic young woman. She is a nationally certified and licensed paramedic working every week saving lives. She credits much of her success to her time at the farm.
"I couldn't have done it without Hopewell."