Thirty-two years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It changed me in many ways – none of them very good. After my diagnosis for a while things went OK. I lived at home, drove a car and attended Durham College studying Child Care. I had several jobs, none for longer than a year and my life seemed to spiral down. I spent almost 3 years of my life in various hospitals, sometimes for up to 3 months at a time.
After one such stay at Ontario Shores it was decided that I was not going home but to a group home. I was not happy about that at the time. Looking back now, it was the right decision.
I was placed at McKay House – the staff there were really kind and caring. It was a big house and I felt very safe there. We were supervised pretty closely and I met other people who were similar to me and suffered some kind of mental illness. We were assigned chores each week and cooked a meal once a week.
Next I went to Colborne House – there were fewer residents and less supervision. I worked at Challenging Directions Enterprises, a workplace that was run by what was then Whitby Mental Health Centre. Some people worked on the line, sealing and filling bags. Others worked in the kitchen or as custodians. I was in the lawn cutting service. I felt like I had a job and it kept me busy.
Finally I moved to Kent House – low-support housing – where I lived the last four years before going on my own. At Kent House, four people shared a home and a worker dropped in each day to see how everyone was doing. She also took us shopping for food. We did our own rooms and shared house chores. After that I moved into my own housing in Pickering, where I still live.
Since moving out on my own, I’ve been supported by the Rouge Valley ACT Team and have benefitted on occasion from accessing DMHS Crisis Services. At Crisis, I feel that I’m at a safe place to get the help I need to get better. The staff are terrific and the short stays at their beds support have helped me stay out of the hospital.
One other DMHS connection I have is with their New Leaf Day Program. It’s a great spot to go because there are people with the same problems, and mental health is a tough issue to talk about with people who haven’t experienced it. We bond by sharing similar stories – I’ve made a lot of friends there.
I’m thankful for all the DMHS staff who have worked with me over the years. They have helped me get to where I am now, enjoying my independence.