WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — "This is no joke... mental illness is not a joke," said Daniel Battershell.
And he wants everyone to know that because it's something he knows all too well.
He says a series of emotional and physical abuse as a child set him down a dark path.
He says he remembers getting beaten with a cane, being called the n-word constantly and a neighbor molesting him.
To escape from those experiences and the memories of them, Battershell turned to drugs.
"I was doing a lot of hallucinogens: LSD, marijuana, cocaine, whatever I could get my hands on," he said.
Battershell says he was trying to wipe out his memory and do whatever he could to not think about that stuff.
His problems worsened as he got older. He began acting out and was arrested multiple times. Being arrested led to his lowest moment.
"Sitting in jail in solitary confinement, just looking out the window and feeling alone," he said.
The trouble, Battershell says, was a result of his ongoing battle with mental illness.
"I have schizoaffective bipolar disorder, ADD, OCD and ADHD, and my family didn't understand that, they just thought I was acting out," he said.
But one moment before a Florida judge made him rethink his life.
"He asked me how old I was. I said I was '18, sir' and then he said 'okay I'm going to give you another chance, but if I ever see you back in my courtroom, I'm going to give you 25 to 30 [years in prison,]'" said Battershell. "That woke me up; I woke up."
He moved with his grandparents to Warner Robins soon after and that's where he began to get help.
"My grandmother took me to the Phoenix Center," he said. "They started to understand I have problems."
Battershell says the treatment -- a combination of therapy and medicine -- took time to work, but the process was worth it.
"I try to be on top of it, I take my medicine, I have to take my medicine," he said. "I have a good doctor...Doctor Dan."
And that medicine is helping.
"My mind's a lot clearer," Battershell said. "I can see things for what it really is now. I see the truth."
Nearly two decades ago, Battershell began his treatment at the Phoenix Center. He says the treatment changed his life and along the way, the people in his life changed too.
"It's amazing, I love being a dad," he said. "I have like, the best son in the world."
Battershell says he's come a long way in those years, from near-incarceration to fatherhood. He says if you're battling mental illness, recovery is possible for you too.
"Go, please seek help. It's okay, we're not crazy. You're not crazy," he said. "God puts people in positions to help you, and the Phoenix Center is one of them."
Jennifer Trawick, director of crisis services at the Phoenix Center, says they offer a full range of services for people battling addiction and mental illness.
"We do have the doctor and nursing services for medication management of symptoms," she said. "Then we also have the therapists where you can come in and talk to somebody one-on-one about issues that you're having. You can develop those coping skills, develop those problem solving skills depending on what the needs are."
Trawick says they also have support groups and case management employees that go into the community to check on their clients and link them to community resources they might not even know exist.
"Case managers are accessible by phone 24/7 so [patients] always have access to somebody," Trawick said.
As for payment, Trawick says they have patient assistance programs to help manage the cost of medication.
The Phoenix Health Center is located at 940 Highway 96 in Warner Robins.
They can be reached over the phone at (478) 988-1222 or by email at email@example.com.