My dance with life

In desperation, I pulled the fire alarm…

Long before then, it all started with sleepless nights. I was 15 years old, and before long, my tossing and turning had become the onset of my mental illness. Suddenly, I couldn’t tell the difference between what was real and what was not.

I felt trapped in my own “darkness” of anxiety and depression.

I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a mental health condition with psychosis and mood-related symptoms. I spent three years in and out of treatment while going to high school. That was the worst time in my life.

I went through 16 hospitalizations as an adult after that, including several in the McEwen Building at St. Boniface Hospital, where mental health services are offered.

Years flew by. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology and landed a job the following year with the Province of Manitoba, working in mental health proctoring services. Eventually, I left home and got my own apartment in a building that offered supported living services, run by an organization that has been a big help to me over the years.

In the process of moving and settling there in December 2017, however, everything started to get chaotic for me. I had paranoia. The “darkness” crept back into my life.

Flashbacks of my first hospitalization as a teenager overtook me. I had a major psychotic breakdown. I thought I was being held against my will, which was not true.

That was when I pulled the fire alarm. An ambulance came, and I returned to St. Boniface Hospital, where I stayed until I was discharged in March 2018.

My supports in the McEwen Building at the Hospital have truly been like angels to me.

Calling them anything else wouldn’t capture the impact they’ve had on my recovery. They believed in me all the way through.

Through nine volumes of medical charts and 16 hospitalizations, they never gave up on me.

I’ve worked to get past the “darkness” with my psychiatrist and Rhonda Cornish, my psychiatric nurse for the past 19 years. She’s intelligent, compassionate, always very accommodating, and super easy to talk to. I’ve been able to share my darkest thoughts over time, letting go of the pain.

My dance with life has been blessed with the right people supporting me at all the right times. I’m lucky to have friends and family that have lifted me up – especially my mother, Diane Lambert. She’s gifted me with faith, inner strength, love and humility. Sara Riel Inc. and the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society have also been invaluable to my recovery. They too have been like angels to me.

Meanwhile, I’m still living on my own and working part time as a proctor. I see three clients regularly and help them learn independent living skills – like how to use the transit system, how to buy groceries, how to clean, and how to go to appointments on the bus.

I have my ups and downs, just like everybody else. I still have anxiety and depression, but I’m optimistic about my future because I can depend on generous donors and my supports at the Hospital.

I’m on the road to recovery. Others in my family have had mental illness, like my father. He died in 2009. But we have not been left to endure our pain on our own.

As a donor, you are part of a support system – one whose importance I cannot stress enough.

I am so, so grateful for the kindness, compassion and understanding I’ve received at St. Boniface Hospital. These gifts have helped me to put obstacles behind me that I didn’t think were possible to overcome.

Open your heart today – your donation is desperately needed by someone like me.