Recovery is sheer poetry

Shanna-Rae shares her poetry at a SERV Recovery NJ Conference.

Shanna-Rae M. loves to write poetry.

“Give me a subject and five minutes and I could come up with one,” says Shanna-Rae, 47, a consumer with SERV Centers Passaic County.   In fact, her thoughts flow like a river current when she is writing about SERV and recovery or penning a tribute to SERV-Passaic Director Kim DeRosa “to make her feel special.”

There is hope and encouragement

In every word you speak

You have become

A champion for the weak

Shanna-Rae, who has had over 30 hospitalizations since 1977 before coming to SERV in February 2006 through Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital, is recovering from bipolar disorder and addiction and has borderline personality disorder. She also engaged in self-injurious behavior (cutting), saying it made her “feel alive” and relieved emotional pain.

Because Shanna-Rae is stable on her bipolar medication, has been sober for more than two years and has not felt the need to cut herself for the last 3½ years, she has graduated from an A-level apartment to more independent living with two roommates in a B-level apartment. She is now responsible for monitoring her own medications, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping and taking care of her transportation to get to the pharmacy and elsewhere.

“Shanna-Rae is living independently with some staff support,” says her Residential Program Manager Kara Fitzgerald. That support includes making sure Shanna-Rae is on the right track with her medications, reviewing coping skills with her, and encouraging her creative expression through writing and arts and crafts in SERV-Passaic’s Adapt day program for adults. Shanna-Rae is inspiring to both staff and other residents, says her RPM. “She is a role model for her peers by her participation and dedication and getting others to participate in activities.”

Her activities include writing for the resident newsletter and serving on the Steering Committee for SERV’s 7th annual Recovery NJ Conference in the spring. The event is attended by more than 400 SERV consumers, their families and healthcare professionals from the eight counties where SERV has operations.

Taking part in activities in the Adapt program offers Shanna-Rae the peer support she has come to enjoy. She welcomes hearing other residents’ success stories because it offers “the realization that I’m not alone. Others have attained success and I look up to them. (And I think), maybe I don’t have to cut myself.”

You have helped those who’ve fallen

To find a higher ground

And when we hear you callin’

It’s such as blessed sound

Before coming to SERV, Shanna-Rae worried that she wouldn’t fit in. But, in the last three years, she has seen a change in herself. “I had been in other programs and wasn’t successful. With the support of peers and SERV staff, I am part of a link in a chain of success stories,” she says. “SERV facilitated the hope that was already in me.”

“Some places treat you like a patient first. SERV treated me like a person first, a patient second.” She cites how SERV Centers’ staff members greet her when she walks in for the day program and is interested in hearing about her weekend activities. “SERV is interested in every aspect of my life – roommates, eating well, achieving a goal of wellness and continuing on the path of recovery. Kim (DeRosa) always tells me her door is open.”

What makes the difference for Shanna-Rae is the relationships she has had with SERV staff and her RPM because of “their willingness to care. They’ll stop (and say) ‘What’s going on? Do you need to talk? I’m here to listen.’ I feel I can go to any one of them.”

You speak to us of dignity

Encouragement and hope

And your gentle ways of helping us

Gives us the tools we need to cope

When asked of her goals, Shanna-Rae is ready with an immediate answer:

to go back to school, perhaps on a SERV Foundation scholarship, to become an occupational therapist. “I’d like to give something back, by doing service.” She also hopes to eventually graduate to a C-level apartment where she would live even more independently with staff support.

So as we work together

To find recovery

Any storm that comes we’ll weather

As our spirits are set free!

Shanna-Rae would like people who are still struggling with severe mental illness to know that at SERV, “you’ll get your needs met. They serve the entire person – help you physically, mentally, spiritually. SERV taught me how to have a belief system. I never thought I could live a day without intrusive thoughts coming into my mind. With help, I am learning how to cope.”

“SERV helps you to be the best YOU that you can be.”


When I think about recovery I think of a new start,
Changes of the mind and changes of the heart.

It’s all about beginnings and trying something new,
Taking off the blinders and having a different point of view.

I know change is hard but you’ll find it’s worth the while
Your self esteem will grow and you’ll find your smile.

So let peace be your guide and together we will fly, 
Above the pain and sorrow if you’ll give it one more try!

-- Shanna-Rae M.

“SERV: A Poem of Thanksgiving”

November 2008

You took me in

When I had no place to go

Gave me comfort and structure

To help me grow

For this I thank you!

You’ve nurtured me

And encouraged me

Showed me the way

Through “Recovery”

For this I thank you!

You gave me a voice

When I choked on the tears

You let me know

I have a choice

You eased my fears

For this I thank you!

I hope that in

The days to come

I’ll be the one

To overcome

Your program is 2nd to none

For this I thank you!

-- Shanna-Rae