“Mental illness … is like being caught up in a tornado, a tornado you don’t really see,” says Well member PT. “You see the debris that is floating in the air … but you don’t really see the tornado.”
PT has lived with the storm of mental illness for over 35 years. He experienced his first episode related to bipolar schizoaffective disorder in 1980, while in Israel with a discipleship group. “I didn’t sleep for three days straight,” he recalls. “My thoughts were racing.”
After returning home to the U.S., he began hearing voices. “When my mental illness hits me, I don’t know that it’s mental illness, he says. “To me the abnormal becomes normal, and I get caught up in it.” He was on journey he didn’t ask for, one that would involve numerous hospital stays and periods of homelessness.
Looking back, PT recalls that there was much less public awareness about mental health when he was diagnosed. “Mental illness was something to be hidden; you didn’t talk about it,” he says. But at The Well Community, he’s found a place where mental health issues are accepted and where those who struggle belong.
PT first learned about The Well Community in 2005 in a NAMI Dallas newsletter. He and a friend went to the weekly worship service (now Thursday Light Life), and PT greatly enjoyed the time of worship, a sermon and a fellowship meal. “I felt like, ‘This is where I belong. I’ll be back,’” PT recalls.
After the meal, PT’s friend shared with one of the volunteers that PT plays the piano. At her invitation, he sat down at the keys and played a song. He didn’t realize that the staff member who led worship at The Well was listening.
When PT returned the following week, He was invited to help lead music each week. “I jumped on it,” PT shares.
Twelve years later, PT still plays the piano at The Well. “I enjoy doing that very much. It gives me an outlet of creativity and helps me to be able to give something back. … People seem to enjoy the music.”
In addition to sharing his musical skills at The Well Community, PT is able to help Thomas, a Well member from whom he rents a room. Thomas can’t attend The Well as often as he once did due to his declining health and failing memory, and PT considers it an honor to assist him. “I try to talk to him and help him in any way I can.”
While PT has participated in other mental health organizations, he’s never found one like The Well: one that helps members with the spiritual side of recovery. “There were mental health groups, but the spiritual aspect of life was never emphasized,” he explains. “One of the things I really like about The Well is that it is a spiritual program. … We have devotions and the sermons. We have a pastor that’s a [staff] member of The Well and his wife is a lay pastor. I can talk about spiritual issues.”
One of the messages PT gets from devotional times at The Well is that everyone has a chance and is accepted. “From top to bottom, from side to side, everyone belongs in there. … I feel free to speak what’s on my heart to other members.”
This sense of belonging is huge for Well members like PT. “It makes me feel more like I’m a human being,” he shares. “There is still a lot of stigma in the community against people with mental health issues. … I’m really blessed and grateful that there is a Well.”
The Well Community gives members a place where they matter—a need PT understands well. He explains, “Everyone has a need to be significant. And I’m not talking about being about being a rock star, movie star or being president. I mean to be validated—just accepted and belonging. And I do get all of that here at The Well.”
The Well offers support and community for individuals dealing with serious mental illnesses. Your gift will help give them a place where they belong.
View the video “A Place to Belong” to hear PT tell his own story.