One day, Jackee looked out the window of the bus, and saw GCBHS. That was the day everything changed.
Jackee is the first to tell you that she used to be a fighter. Her childhood left her with abandonment wounds—deep gashes in her psyche that continued to fester into adulthood. She survived by being a tough girl who wasn’t gonna take it from anyone. “I called myself a dressed up trashcan. I had an image, and no one was gonna mess with me.”
But trouble always found Jackee. When a street mugger—a woman with wild eyes and a sharp knife—tried to take her phone, Jackee refused. She was braced for a fight—and she got one. The woman stabbed her more than 20 times, all over her face, arms, and hands.
Jackee spent the next three weeks in a hospital trauma unit, and the six months after that in a nursing home doing extensive therapy. She had to relearn how to use her hands (she couldn’t grip anything) and mouth again (they said she may never talk again, but her voice is clear and beautiful today). Save for her network of scars and some residual nerve damage in her right hand, she made a complete physical recovery.
Mentally, she wasn’t so lucky.
Jackee, at this point a mother of three grown children, was unable to work—more because of her emotional wounds than her physical ones. She was gripped with fear, afraid most days to leave her home. She fell into a deep depression. “I knew I was slowly dying. I told my mama I was afraid I was almost at the end,” Jackee says.
“Before I started doing work on myself at GCB, I didn't even know I had a favorite color.”
One afternoon, Jackee managed to get herself on the bus. Pointing out the window, she asked the woman sitting next to her what people were doing standing around that building. Her fellow bus rider told her the building was GCB, and it was a place that helped people with things like depression. “I didn’t go right away, but I made a note. And then one day, I knew it was time.”
Jackee came to GCBHS as a walk-in. Her care manager got her in with a GCBHS psychiatrist who listened carefully to her story, diagnosed her with PTSD, and made some therapy recommendations. To heal, Jackee needed to get back among people, into a daily routine. It just so happened that there was an opening at GCBHS for someone to take over the coffee cart. The cart attendant, Val (another GCBHS client) was moving on, and she trained Jackee on how to manage the cart.
Along with her new job, Jackee also started attending a women’s empowerment group at GCBHS. “I listened and absorbed everything I heard,” she says. It was the first time Jackee realized that she didn’t truly know herself at all. That fighter? That “dressed up trash can”? Those were only fronts. Once Jackee started doing the important self-work—the thinking and reading and talking—a whole new world opened up to her. “Before I started doing work on myself at GCBHS,” Jackee says, “I didn’t even know I had a favorite color.” (It’s red!)
In addition to working the coffee cart every day for six hours, Jackee goes to school for three hours every night. She is studying social work, working first toward an Associate’s degree, then a Bachelor’s, and eventually a Master’s. She’s not afraid of a big dream. “I don’t take it lightly that I’m here today. I want to work in this environment because I’m grateful that somebody believed in me enough to give me a shot,” she says.
She wants to pay it forward, and make a difference for the next person who comes to GCBHS, broken and afraid. That’s not Jackee anymore. Her larger-than-life smile is an immediate giveaway.