- Associated Press - Friday, April 22, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - Less than 10 years ago Cathy Myers was homeless, sleeping in her car, and struggling with mental illness.

Throughout her life, the Springfield native had attempted suicide 14 times, the Springfield News-Leader (https://sgfnow.co/1qXe2nP ) reports.

Today, though, she has a home and no longer needs medications to treat her depression and borderline personality disorder.

And the 59-year-old attributes all that to God and to the game of bridge.

“(Bridge) helped me with my concentration. I had to stay focused on what do I play next, how do I bid this,” she said.

Myers’ story was featured in the April edition of Bridge Bulletin, the international monthly publication of the American Contract Bridge League.

In her essay titled, “How Bridge Changed My Life,” Myers tells how she met a man named Cliff Barton, an avid bridge player, at a fund raiser for NAMI Southwest Missouri, the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

When Barton learned Myers had been homeless for 16 months, he called the local NAMI office to learn more about her. He offered a place for her to stay: a rent-free, furnished apartment in his basement. She stayed there for six months before moving into the Salvation Army’s Family Enrichment Center.

During this time, Barton and Myers became close friends. One evening, she asked him how to play bridge.

“He sat down and explained the game to me,” she wrote in the essay. “When he finished, he asked if I was still interested. I said I was. It was nearly Christmas, and he offered to pay half the cost of lessons if I would pay the balance.”

One of her psychotropic medications was impacting her memory at the time. Consequently, Myers said it took her three years to learn how to play. Most people can learn to play over the period of a few months.

Myers said accomplishing her goal of learning to play and constantly being encouraged by the folks at her bridge club has also helped her regain self-esteem.

Rick and Mary Giles are among Myers’ friends from bridge club.

“We think very highly of her. She has had a rough background. We tried to befriend her,” Rick Giles said. “She is a good bridge player. I think it took her mind off what her problems were and made her focus on something else.”

The Giles invited Myers to church at Crossway Baptist Church, where Myers attends to this day.

“God healed me on June 8, 2015, the day I got saved,” Myers said.

Myers has lived in a rented apartment for more than a year and is looking for a full-time job.

When asked what she would like people to know about mental illness, Myers began to cry.

“The only time people hear about mental illness in the news is when something tragic happens. And we are not all like that,” she said. “It’s not any different than any other illness. I don’t think people are educated in that they look at it as different.

“Members of my bridge club knew my story and my struggles. Yet, in that environment I never experience the stigma so often associated with mental illness,” she added. “If it hadn’t been for Cliff giving me a place to live, getting me to learn to play bridge, getting these people who have made a difference in my life, helping with my self-esteem, helping me see that I’m OK. They accepted me.”


Information from: Springfield News-Leader, https://www.news-leader.com

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