Laughs and smiles enter the room with 48 year old Alexis. She is full of sass and hope, but this is not an easy interview for her. In July of 2016 she suffered a stroke, which took many of her memories away. Now, nearly a year later, Alexis has come a very long way in her recovery journey, both mentally and physically. Over time, her memory is slowly returning, and she is able to share her story even better than she expected walking in.
Alexis’s story really begins in her younger years, which were plagued with abuse and adversity as the black sheep of the family. Her most traumatizing memory from childhood is something that could have come right out of a horror movie.
“My momma used to drag me into the pantry and lock it. None of the other kids got put in there and that scared the living —- out of me.” She still can’t believe that those are the words that describe her childhood. As traumatic as that experience was –spending much of one’s childhood locked in a small, dark room—Alexis found something unexpected there.
“That’s where I found the Lord. I was in 5th grade, and I was sitting in that pantry. I didn’t have nobody to talk to, so I talked to Jesus.”
Unfortunately, being locked up wasn’t the only hurdle for Alexis growing up. Alexis was molested by family members at a young age, raped by a women at 16 years old, and was also bullied for her dark skin. She was called names such as Pepper, Spook and Midnight. She always resented the color of her skin and envied her sisters lighter tones. At the end of her mother’s life in 2007, she apologized to 39 year old Alexis for the way she had been treated all those years. But Alexis still carries the burden of her past to this very day.
“At about 18 years old, I started to put myself in that pantry. I felt safe there.” The pantry had become Alexis’ escape – a hiding place.
In the 1990’s, Alexis stopped hiding and started coming to Portage Path on her own to help cope with her past trauma, anxiety and depression. She utilizes many services, including individual therapy, group therapy, and our Case Management Program (CPST) – especially since her stroke.
CPST – Community Psychiatric Supportive Treatment, helps our clients beyond their mental health needs. Case or care management is a collaborative process of assessment, planning, facilitation, care coordination, evaluation, and advocacy for options and services to meet an individual’s needs. The main focus is to help our clients with food, shelter, health care, and other needs. When basic needs are more stable, the client is better able to focus on their therapy goals.
“People see me on Facebook and they think I’m okay,” Alexis mumbles through her tears. “I’m not fine, this brain is sick. Being okay and being blessed are two different things to me. I am on the road to being okay, but I am always blessed.”
Alexis begins to list all of the people who she has been helped by at Portage Path over the years and with each new name remembered, there are happy tears. Her stroke has left her with a poor memory, but with therapy, she is improving. Remembering old names is a feat for Alexis and it brings her joy and a sense of hope to know she is slowly returning to the Alexis she knows.
“I am beginning to think I am an overcomer. I have overcome drugs, I have overcome emotional depression, and now I am overcoming a stroke. I feel like I have a second chance at life. Now I am exercising at the YMCA and I am starting to enjoy it. All of these things, and the people helping me, make me feel more confident.”
Alexis credits all of her recovery success to what she calls her Supreme Team: Her case manager, therapist, and doctors at Portage Path along with her speech therapist, physical therapist and Yoga instructor.
“They are so awesome. I have been blessed to have some good people looking after me. God knew the stroke was coming, so he lined up my Supreme Team. They keep me motivated and they keep the stuff out of my mind that I get attacked by.”
Even after so much adversity, with the help of her Supreme Team, she has hope for the future. Alexis shares her dream of opening a restaurant.
“I call myself the black Martha Stewart. I love to cook and entertain!”
Alexis has overcome so much already, but she knows she still has a long journey ahead of her. With immense hope, motivation to reach her dreams, and the help of Portage Path, Alexis will stop at nothing to live her fabulous life.