Motivated for a Better Life - What a Difference a Year Can Make

As the sole caregiver for his two elderly parents, 28-year old Elijah has multiple responsibilities, including doing all of the grocery shopping and cooking. In addition to that role, Elijah is also coping with his own mental illness (bipolar 1 disorder) as well as an eating disorder with social anxiety, which would often cause him to become overwhelmed at the grocery.  “My parents would ask me to get a bag of chips,” he says.  “There is an entire aisle full of nothing but chips – my apprehension would get so bad, sometimes I would have to just leave my full cart and bolt for the door.”

Elijah receives integrated care at Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services (GCB) in Amelia.  He was referred to Carl Henthorn, a GCB peer wellness coach, in April of 2016.  “At that time,” says Carl, “Elijah was drinking six cans of soda, smoking about a pack and a half of cigarettes and eating only one meal a day.  In addition, his medication was causing significant weight gain even though he was eating so little, which exacerbated his eating disorder.” 

Elijah was ready to turn his life around, for the second time.  After getting sober nearly five years prior, he had successfully entered college and was earning straight A’s toward a degree in Mental Health Technology when a severe genetic kidney stone disorder proved to be disruptive to the point he had to drop out.

Shortly thereafter, he was asked to move home to Clermont County and care for his parents. GCB in Amelia features a Holistic Health Integration program, allowing clients with mental health issues to see both a primary care as well as a behavioral health services clinician. The site also offers wellness coaching programs, including an 8-week smoking cessation as well as a nutrition education program, both of which Elijah completed.

Almost one and a half years after connecting with Carl, Elijah has come a long way.  He’s lost 61 pounds, has learned to cook basic nutritional meals, and can grocery shop without incident. He’s also quit smoking, although he has relapsed several times. “It’s a process,” he says, “especially when I live with a smoker. But I still don’t smoke nearly as much as I used to.”  He works out to exercise videos at home, and has even completed all the coursework required to become certified in peer support through the Hope Community Center for Mental Wellness. Currently, he is mentoring a LGBT-Q group and would like to work on an outreach team to help peers who are struggling with drug and alcohol use.

 “Compared to a year ago,” says Carl, “Elijah feels more accomplished, especially in his relationship with food and maladaptive eating habits. Now, he can remain calm when he has to eat meals to fuel his body throughout the day. He also feels capable of coping with stressful situations by using the skills he learned in the DBT program, which have been helpful in equipping him to communicate with his parents far more effectively than in the past.”

“If this program had not been available,” says Elijah, “my poor lifestyle habits and health would have continued to deteriorate.  I am very thankful for these services, and the help that I’ve received to get my life back on track.”