Making her mother proud by prioritizing her mental health

Plenty of people like to joke that they gave their mamas migraines in their younger days.

That might be a bit truer for Nicole Jordan, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. She lived with her mother, and together, they tried to manage her mental illness on their own.

“I was in denial of the mental illness, and I didn’t always take my meds. When I lived with my mother, it was a battle for us,” Nicole said. “But I realized as we both got older, I didn’t want to put her through any more stress. So I said, OK, I need to start over.”

That meant reaching out to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton, where she moved into a group home in Burlington County in 2013. There, she got intensive support to learn how to manage her mental illness.

A continuum of care

Catholic Charities’ mental health services operate on a continuum, in which staff strive to move people toward independent living. So after two years in the group home, Nicole got her own apartment, enrolling in several Catholic Charities programs to continue her progress toward independence.

In Partial Care, she learned life skills and other tools to ensure her wellness and recovery. In Supported Employment, she built her resume, learned interviewing skills, and got several jobs, including her current maintenance position at Delaware House (pictured, left). At the Riverbank Self-Help Center, she socialized with other clients and taught dance lessons. And because Nicole plans to move soon to North Carolina to be with her sister, staffers in Intensive Family Support Services are working to secure services for Nicole in her new hometown.

What makes her progress especially remarkable is that she was diagnosed with – and beat – breast cancer while in Catholic Charities’ care.

“She is a survivor of that and had a good attitude even when she wasn’t feeling well,” said Kelli Madison, a Partial Care case manager.

Nicole aims to get her general-equivalency degree and another job in North Carolina. She loves writing poetry (below, right), sketching, and wowing her counselors and coworkers with her eye-catching fashion choices and hairstyles.

“She’s a fashionista,” laughed her job coach Tegri Walls.

Got it together

She has one regret.

“I wish my mom was here to see me now,” Nicole said of her mother, who passed away in 2014. “I feel like I put her through so much, but I finally got it together.”

Still, Nicole takes pride in her progress.

“I feel pretty good about myself,” she said. “When I first came here, I wasn’t very goal-oriented, and I didn’t really have structure. It took a lot of counselors and job-coaching to get me to where I am today.”

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For more information: Drew Wisloski, Behavioral Health Service Area Director (609) 267-9339; or Dana DiFilippo, Catholic Charities communications, ddifilippo@cctrenton.org or (609) 394-5181, ext. 1153.

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