“Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs. The ones who accept you for who you are. The ones that would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what.” (source unknown)
Members of The Well Community know these thoughts to be so very true. And being at “home for the holidays” means many different things to our members. Because of stigma, homelessness and other challenges that often come with mental illnesses, some of our members have learned to develop family units with people who understand and share their lived experiences. Some do live with their family of origin, while others live with siblings or with a spouse. And as described below, some live together as members of The Well.
Jacob’s House is a City of Dallas-licensed boarding home run by The Well Community where seven men who deal with chronic mental illnesses find a family environment. “These men are my brothers. We are a family,” says one resident. During the pandemic they are grateful to have each other for company. Together they watch movies, play games and share meals, all while supporting one another through the daily highs and lows of COVID life.
Across the neighborhood, Angel shares a home with her two daughters and son-in-law—all members of The Well Community—along with some other friends. “During the pandemic it is so good to have each other to lean on,” says Angel. They fill their time with watching TV, talking together, praying, reading Scripture and enjoying their pets. “We all live with mental illnesses, so we get each other. We support one another—always.”
That support takes many forms. They remind each other to take their daily medications. They pool their resources to cover their modest expenses. Angel emphasizes, “The most important thing we do is keep the lines of communication open. We talk about whatever we need to help us each feel secure and loved. And we pray for each other—a lot.”
Angel says The Well members are like “the rest of the family.” She adds, “When we are able to be together, we take each other as we are. Out in the wider world there is stigma. People say those with mental illness can only go so far. I tell my daughters that’s not true—they can be more, better. And The Well helps us do that,” she explains.
As the holidays approach, family can be an important stabilizing influence for individuals who struggle with depression and anxiety. Angel says it is a challenging time for all of her household as they miss and grieve her son, whom they lost to a violent crime 12 years ago. “My daughters especially struggle through Christmas, but I make sure we are all talking together about what we are feeling. We take time to listen and then consider what we can think about to feel better,” she says.
“As I have worked with our members over the years, I have seen how resilient and resourceful the human heart can be,” says Alice Zaccarello, Executive Director of The Well. People need people. We need to belong and be a part of other peoples’ lives.” She continues, “That’s why The Well is so important: We foster an environment of acceptance and care. And that sounds like family to me!”