SHARING OUR STORIES
How the Network Changes Lives for the Better
Spotlighting Gladys Yau
of the Berkeley Drop-In Center
My name is Gladys Yau and I was born, raised and educated in Peru. My mother was a widow with 5 children at 48 years old. I am the youngest of all. My childhood and my adolescence were very precarious due to the lack of economic resources. On Christmas Eve, when I was about 8 years old, I was hit by a motorcycle near my school. I only vaguely remember the accident. I just recall waking up in the hospital.
My mother went into shock because it had only been four months since my father died. I received physical, and psychological treatment. They did brain exams and other tests but I never learned the diagnosis because they only told my mother and she never told me what it was. Unfortunately, I could not continue treatment because it was too expensive for us.
After that, I had a terrible time in school. I could not concentrate, and I couldn’t focus enough to learn what I needed to learn. I did graduate from high school with some difficulty and immediately I got to work as a receptionist in a leather factory. This was my first job, and I was around 20 years old. I also worked as a cashier in several Automotive stores.
In my thirties, I went to work in Japan for three consecutive years. It was the first time I went out to explore new trails, looking for better economic opportunities and social status. It was quite difficult for me to get used to the culture and the food. Then, by a strange coincidence, I had an accident again on Christmas Eve in the hotel industrial laundry where I was working. I think part of the reason I had an accident is that I was tired and stressed from working 10 to 12 hours a day.
After the accident, stress and depression overtook me and I began to feel that I was becoming a robot machine. This greatly affected my personality, and I missed my family and my country very much. So, I decided to return to Peru. When I got back, I decided to follow a psychological treatment. I attended several sessions but did not find it helpful as they just listened to me and gave me antidepressants. I was looking for clearer solutions.
Three years ago, I lost my mother. She was about to turn 100 years’ old and I had been taking care of her for 15 years. I went into a deep depression and developed severe anxiety at this time I also had feelings of guilt because I felt I had not taken good enough care of her. My physical and mental health became compromised. I knew I needed help, but I did not want to go back to a psychologist.
The interesting thing is that I was working in a nonprofit mental health agency at the time. At first, I was a production coordinator and then they assigned me to peer support. But I had no idea what peer support was. I needed to get more experience, more knowledge, and skills to help the people assigned to me to assist. I also realized I needed to address my own problems. I decided to help myself overcome my own trauma by attending support groups in which I found many answers to my fears.
At this time, I found out about the many peer support resources in Alameda County. I began to go to support groups for my own benefit. Through these groups, I found out about the BestNow! peer support specialist training and decided to enroll. This course changed my life. I especially benefited from the internship in a peer-run mental health drop-in center called Berkeley Drop-In Center.
When I finished my training, I was fortunate enough to be hired for paid employment at the Drop-In. Working here has been a wonderful experience. I am also doing volunteer work for NAMI of Contra Costa County. I want to continue to learn as much as I can so that I can be of greatest assistance to those I serve. In this process, I continue to prove to myself that I can reach my recovery goals and be useful for my community and society.
We want to spotlight and honor one of our employees, Reverend Barbara Meyers, who serves in our Reaching Across program and who is also a Unitarian Universalist minister. She recently had a book published called, Held. Showing Up for Each Other's Mental Health. The book is meant to be used to assist religious congregations support members who are dealing with mental issues and walk with them on their roads to recovery. Barbara has been honored for her long history of dedicated peer support, especially in the area of spirituality.
Honoring Reverend Barbara Meyers
of Reaching Across