PORT CHESTER, N.Y. -- Sheila Harris has exactly 63 different personalities in her head, which in the past, made it near impossible for her to work. "I had no idea where everybody was, and who was doing what," said Harris, 42, who suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder and sees her personalities as distinct people that can appear wherever she is, but can also "become" her depending on the circumstances.
Growing up in White Plains, Harris received some therapy as a teenager when the disorder began to manifest itself, but it was short-lived. She began abusing cocaine around age 20 and had her first child at 22. She struggled with the addiction for seven years. During that time her mental disorder went untreated.
Harris eventually was able to overcome her addiction through Narcotics Anonymous, and started getting psychiatric treatment. Shortly after she found herself at Hope House in Port Chester.
Hope House provides educational, employment and residential services to people with mental disabilities throughout the county as part of the organization Human Development Services of Westchester .
Harris was living in a shelter in Yorktown when she heard about Hope House's residential program. She was able to move into an apartment with two other women in Port Chester.
With the help of their services she was able to start taking classes online and obtained her associate's degree in psychology from the University of Phoenix. She also was able to get assistance with job applications and along with her psychiatric treatment was gaining control of her life and able to work, though she still had difficulties.
Up until recently Harris had been unemployed for several months, but is now working part-time at Childrens Village in Dobbs Ferry, which is an organization that provides assistance to poor children and families that struggle to make a living and require emotional counseling.
Harris takes care of many of the daily needs at Childrens Village such as food preparation and communicating the needs of residents, but she would eventually like to work as a drug abuse counselor for teenagers. When she isnt working she comes to Hope House and volunteers her time.
They were really my cheerleaders when I was ready to give up, said Harris. I want to be able to give back to them.
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