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Karen has experienced depression and anxiety from the age of 14. Despite a series of painful life events, she has overcome many challenges to achieve her current state of health. Here is her story.

My life has been a road of many challenges and painful experiences. My mother was an abusive alcoholic. My husband was very abusive and exploited our relationship in every way. When I left the marriage, my health deteriorated to the point I needed hospitalization and I lost custody of my two kids. I was estranged from my eldest son at age ten until he reconnected with me 5 ½ years later.

I have lived at the YWCA in Oshawa for many years. I struggled at times with suicidal depression and anxiety. While the Y provided me a lot of encouragement and emotional support – with my divorce, my custody battle, with getting onto ODSP and with everyday life – they saw that I could benefit from extra help and connected me to Durham Mental Health Services’ Community Support Program.

This case management support helped me emerge from a very bad mental state. My worker helped me coordinate and access a variety of healthcare supports. She provided emotional support at a time I really needed it. She helped me set realistic goals that had a positive impact on my overall health and happiness. I have worked with a few DMHS case managers and their positive encouragement and support helped me achieve a sense of worth and accomplish important goals in my recovery.

I was out of contact with DMHS from 2006 to 2014 when I experienced a full relapse. Over time, I had lost touch with staff supports at the Y who had moved on. Change has never been easy for me. The Y’s Interim Housing Support Worker, who has been extremely helpful, connected me with the Mobile Crisis Response Team. They helped me through a suicidal crisis and introduced me to the WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) program, provided by DMHS Peer Support.

I have taken WRAP five times. The first two times I was just there in body but I did find that it provided an emotionally safe place. By my third time, I started to participate and to build a binder of wellness strategies and the fourth time, things really clicked. DMHS was willing to take the time for me to fully invest in the process and in the end I took away a self-management resource that I actively use every day. The Wellness Recovery Action Plan has helped me establish a whole set of regular healthy routines that keep my everyday life in order and help me maintain a positive mood and outlook.

My wellness plan also reminds me when it’s time to reach out for additional support, including DMHS Crisis Services’ Bed Support. Having this early intervention option has helped me stay healthy and out of the hospital.

My life still has its challenges but for the most part I am better off now and more stable thanks in part to what I learned through DMHS’ WRAP program. I don’t have a positive mood and outlook all the time. I aim for that but that is not the case every day. However, I can identify when things are breaking down and know to utilize my supports when I need them.

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