A youthful 70 years old, Judie I. is still going strong. She has recently discovered she has a gift for doing art: her whimsical creation of a butterfly floating across brightly colored fabric is featured in C4’s 2012 calendar: The art of Hope.
Her title, “Free to be Me,” fits perfectly. It wasn’t always like that for the Chicago resident. For 18 years, Judie lived in a nursing home for people with serious mental illness.
“When you’re in a nursing home, you don’t get to do anything on your own. I was told that I was not able to live independently,” recalls Judie, who had been on psychotropic medication since she was 25 and hospitalized for long periods.
But Judie got lucky. For the past twelve years, the former nursing home resident has been living on her own.
“I have come such a long way,’ says Judie, who now shares a sixth floor lakefront apartment with two roommates. Judie credits C4 with helping her make the move. C4’s team of caregivers– dedicated psychiatrists, case workers and therapists –helped Judie find the resources and confidence to leave the nursing home and live in the community.
“If it weren’t for C4, I would still be in that nursing home,” she explains. “I’m now able to solve problems and be proactive in getting help.”
Her physical health has also improved dramatically. Judie is adamant that mental health is a “public health issue.”
“Before I became stable, I was seeing all kinds of doctors for physical problems. Now I’m doing much better,” she says.
These days, Judie is active as a member of C4’s newly formed Consumer Advisory Board.
“C4 has done so much for me and I want to give back,” she says. ” I want to use my experience to help people who aren’t as lucky as I was.”