Faces of mental illness, 3 years later: Antoinette and Randy Brooks

The Center for Health Reporting found Antoinette Blunt and Randy Brooks in 2012 as part of The Modesto Bee’s reporting on the dilapidated state of mental health treatment in Stanislaus County. Pictured here in 2015, both had been diagnosed with schizophrenia./Lauren M. Whaley, CHCF Center for Health Reporting

This story originally appeared in the Modesto Bee.


The Center for Health Reporting found Antoinette Blunt and Randy Brooks in 2012 as part of The Modesto Bee’s reporting on the dilapidated state of mental health treatment in Stanislaus County.

Both had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Both heard voices. They wanted to be photographed together.

They had met at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Stanislaus County, a few years earlier, drinking coffee and talking about life. They found refuge there and in each other.

“He’s like my best friend,” Antoinette said. The 33-year-old now goes by Antoinette Brooks. “We came from the same background.”

Three years later, the couple is married and living in a modest Modesto apartment with inspirational poems, cards and photos taped to the walls.


“It feels good when you have a key to your own house and you can come home and relax and watch TV,” Antoinette said. They also spend their free time riding their bicycles together.

The Brookses both receive Supplemental Security Income and Medi-Cal, California’s version of the federal Medicaid program for low-income residents. They’re both managing their mental illness with medicine, meditation and various workshops at NAMI. They both volunteer at NAMI’s wellness recovery center.

“I like being a volunteer because if somebody is reaching out for help, I can be there to guide them and help them out,” Antoinette said.

She knows what they’re going through.

“I live in the present,” she said. “But some days it’s not easy because you have to go through life if it’s hard or easy.”

Randy Brooks and Antoinette Blunt in 2012./Lauren M. Whaley, CHCF Center for Health Reporting


Randy, 55, whose illness was once so intense that he could not stand in lines without thinking everyone else was talking about him, says life has dramatically improved over the past three years.

“I don’t take this for granted,” he said. “It can take me out at any given time if I give in to the voices.”

In addition to attending support groups at NAMI and getting involved in the community by giving food and money to people who are experiencing homelessness, Randy credits his happiness to his wife.

“I love her because she’s growing with me,” he said. “We’re on a journey together. She’s everything I need. I don’t need to go out there and look for nothing better. It’s right in my face.”

 

 


Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/living/health-fitness/article37660944.html#storylink=cpy

 

 

 

 

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