Thursday, October 30, 2008

This story of mental illness -- and recovery -- is still being told


OLYMPIA -- Stephanie Lane saw the man arrive out of the corner of
her eye, and despite the warmth in the room, she felt a fleeting
shiver, the familiar bone chill of recognition.

The man had a sleeping bag tucked under one arm, a couple of hard
days' worth of stubble on his street-ruddy face, a vaguely hunted look.
He appeared in search of something -- a shower, a hot meal and
something else -- something less tangible. Something that resembled a

Lane, a program director with the state's mental health division,
had arrived a few minutes earlier at the Capital Clubhouse -- a drop-in
center and job-training program for people with mental illness. Chic in
black, with a toss of strawberry blond hair and sea foam-green eyes,
Lane is funny and smart, articulate and engaging. She was perched at a
lunch table in the common area discussing grant proposals when the man
walked in.

She interrupted her meeting to greet the stranger in the room.

"I'm Stephanie," she said, sticking out her hand. "I've been where you are."

They shook on that, a gesture that sealed a pact that is at once
Lane's job responsibility and her personal mission -- to help people
like herself navigate their way out of the morass of mental illness.

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