What does recovery mean to you?

recovery

I was recently speaking with some people who work in the mental health field just as I do, and someone asked me the question, “what does recovery mean to you?” My first thought was that mental health recovery will look different for everyone because no two people will follow the same path while they work towards positive mental health. I stumbled through an answer touching on my own experiences of depressed mood and anxiety.  I can say that I have recovered from depression and anxiety because I now feel that I have enough self-awareness and self-compassion to recognize when I am struggling, and because the coping skills and support network that I have developed over the years allow me to feel confident that I can face my concerns head-on. That doesn’t mean that I am not susceptible to future periods of depression and anxiety, and so, I have accepted that I will always have to be vigilant and proactive when it comes to my mental health.

The question about recovery got me thinking, and I started wondering about how other people and agencies define recovery. The Mental Health Commission of Canada answers the “what is recovery?” question like this:

” The concept of “recovery” in mental health refers to living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life, even when a person may be experiencing ongoing symptoms of a mental health problem or illness. Recovery journeys build on individual, family, cultural, and community strengths and can be supported by many types of services, supports, and treatments. 

Recovery principles, including hope, dignity, self-determination, and responsibility, can be adapted to the realities of different life stages, and to the full range of mental health problems and illnesses. Recovery is not only possible, it should be expected.”

Because mental illnesses vary greatly in severity, duration, and presentation, recovery cannot be narrowly defined as the absence of any symptoms of the illness. While someone who has experienced an episode of depression may go on to never experience the symptoms of clinical depression again, someone with a diagnosis of schizophrenia (for example) will most likely live with some symptoms of the illness throughout their life. However, if we look at the way recovery is defined in the quote above, the person living with an illness can still recover because they can become empowered to live a satisfying life. Therefore, a person who is living with a mental illness can also be a person with good mental health.

The recovery model of mental health service recognizes the importance of looking at mental health holistically while supporting people with mental illness to create their own recovery plans, set their own goals, build on their strengths, and engage with the communities in which they live.

Perhaps recovery is best thought of as a process or even a practice. It is a journey rather than a destination. To everyone who is living with ongoing mental health concerns and who is practicing recovery, I hope that you will find the path towards wellness that is just right for you.

By Polly Guetta

 

 

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Highlights of MDABC’s 2016 Holiday Volunteer Appreciation Party

christmas-partyOn Friday, December 16th the staff of the MDABC were pleased to host our annual Holiday Volunteer Appreciation Party at the Counselling and Wellness Centre in Vancouver. This was a chance for the staff of the MDABC to show how truly grateful we are for all of the time, enthusiasm and dedication shown by the volunteers throughout the year.

The MDABC wouldn’t exist without our wonderful volunteers who generously give their time to facilitate support groups, greet patients in our psychiatric clinic, do community outreach, educate the public about mental health, write newsletter articles, and much more! Just thinking about how many lives have been positively impacted  by our volunteers is amazing.

Guests at the party were treated to a buffet of holiday treats and a craft room full of art party-3supplies with which to get creative. We then did a Christmas Trivia Quiz (click here to download our quiz) and the winners picked out prizes from beneath the tree. A couple of speeches from our Executive Director Martin Addison and our Operations Manager Catherine St.Denis rounded out the afternoon.

It was great to see everyone come to together at this event, and the MDABC would like to wish all of our volunteers, clients, members, patients, and friends a lovely holiday season!

 

When Caring becomes too much…

The MDABC recognizes that many people who are caring for loved ones with mental health concerns are struggling themselves. Confusion about where to go for help and support, exhaustion from dealing with the loved one, and feelings of powerlessness in the face of the illness can compound to leave people feeling unable to cope. Sometimes, when it all becomes too much, caregiver burnout can develop.

Some signs that you may be experiencing caregiver burnout include:mom and daughter

  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless, and helpless
  • Changes in appetite, weight, or both
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Getting sick more often
  • Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring
  • Emotional and physical exhaustion
  • Excessive use of alcohol and/or sleep medications
  • Irritability

If you are feeling overwhelmed, it’s important that you try to get the help and support that you need to cope and feel better. It is also essential that you take steps to make self-care a priority in your life in order to prevent burnout.

We invite you to join us at the Counselling and Wellness Centre at MDABC on June 24th for a free lecture on caregiver burnout. You can click on the image below to go directly to the Eventbrite Registration page. caregiver burnout (1) 

The Value of Connection : A Mental Health Perspective 

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By Catherine St. Denis

Building a social network helps aid in the improvement of the lives of people with mental illnesses. After years of working with people with mood disorders, we at the Mood Disorders Association of BC believe that not only do social networks improve the lives of people with mood disorders, sometimes social networks can save lives.

Staff at the MDABC frequently hear, “The support group saved my life” and, “I don’t know what I’d do without the support of this program”. We take these little nuggets and store them away knowing that opportunities for social networking and support are crucial to an improvement, or lack of decline in mental health; this is what we hear and see around us all the time. These messages come from people in our peer support groups, our Cognitive Behavioural Therapy classes and in our workshops.

There are many reasons that connecting with others in meaningful ways is helpful. Connection with others reduces the isolation people with mood disorders often feel. Connection with others helps us learn about our illness through the informal or formal learning one gets from talking to others. When we connect with others with similar concerns we know we are not alone in our feelings and behaviours; others have also struggled with our issues. When we connect with supportive loved ones we can feel their caring and compassion and can realize that no matter how we feel on the inside, no matter how great our symptoms are, there are people who really care for and love us. When we are in the throes of active symptoms of our illness it is very challenging at times to feel and believe that we are loved and cared about so this connection can be a perfect reminder.

There are other ways of connecting even if one does not have a circle of family and friends. The MDABC offers peer support groups, classes and workshops so that people can make these important connections. There are members of some groups who have become friends and who have formed close, mutually beneficial relationships that have enhanced their lives. Connection does not have to mean personal relationships either. When we volunteer or enter or re-enter the workforce we have opportunities to connect with others and there are hundreds of organizations that look for volunteers throughout the year, for either short or long term positions.

When we attend lectures, discussion groups, or entertainment events we can connect with others for brief periods, this can make the difference between a bad day and a good one. Of course just being around others is not enough if we keep to ourselves and don’t make efforts to talk, make eye contact or add to a discussion, this is the part of connection that takes some effort. If we want to have friends, colleagues, supportive family members and other relationships, no matter how brief, we must take our fears and discomfort in hand and experiment. We won’t connect with everyone all the time but the more one makes efforts to connect the more chance of it happening.

For more information about the programs and services the MDABC has to help you connect please visit our website at www.mdabc.net.

For more information about opportunities to volunteer with other organizations please visit Go Volunteer at http://govolunteer.ca/.

Meet Lisa Kleiman – One of MDABC’s Wonderful Volunteers

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How did you come to be a volunteer at the MDABC?

I was facilitating a group at the MDABC office when two members of the staff announced that they were putting together an Information Bureau. It is for volunteers who go and set up a booth of information and education about mental illness and let the community know about all the work that the Mood Disorders Association of BC is doing.

What kind of volunteer work have you done at MDABC?

I have been facilitating support groups since 2012. I am one of the facilitators of the Jewish Support group.

What do you find most rewarding about doing this work?

I love facilitating; being a member of a support group is a big part of my wellness. I have met the most incredible people. To be able to facilitate a group makes me feel so privileged. I also love going to events around the city as part of the Information Bureau because it is so much fun. You get to talk to people that may be asking questions about mental illness for the first time. Just to listen to them and tell them that there are lots of resources in the community is an amazing feeling. I feel so proud to tell them about the Mood Disorders Association as finding MDABC changed my life.

What kind of programs would you like to see offered in the future?

I would love to see a support group for high school students offered in the future. MDA has a support group for young adults 19 years old to 30. I would like to see one for young people under 19 years old. When we go into the schools to bring information, I would love to say that there is a support group for them.

What are three things that you do to feel happy and well?

I love having coffee with friends, relaxing and watching Netflix.  I also love to walk with my music blaring to shake off the day and to look after myself.

New Self-Help Group is Open for Registration

If you have been experiencing stress and anxiety and want to get together with others who are struggling with the same concerns,  check out our new self-help action group starting in February. You will learn simple practices such as mindful breathing and visualizations to help you relax and calm  your body and mind. MDABC self-help action groups are offered in our Counselling and Wellness Centre, and you will find yourself in a warm and accepting environment in which you can meet new people and find support and connection.

ryan schick group

Meet Nan Dickie-One of MDABC’s Wonderful Volunteers

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How did you come to be a volunteer at the MDABC?

In 1994 I started writing short stories, articles and essays for the MDA newsletter that came out every two months. I continued writing for the newsletter for six years.

In 2010, I became an MDA group facilitator in Salmon Arm. I am continuing with this volunteer work.

What kind of volunteer work have you done at MDABC?

I have been associated with the MDA since the early 90s when I lived in Vancouver. My first involvement was writing 1,000 word stories and articles for the newsletter which was published 6 times a year, and mailed out to members. (Email didn’t yet exist.) When I dropped the envelope containing an article in the box for the first time, I had the horrible feeling of having “exposed” myself. Quickly I knew it was for the greater good and I committed myself to writing stories and articles for each newsletter from then on.

After about five years of writing these articles (which now totaled 30), many people said, “You should make this into a book.” Easy to say, a huge challenge to do! However, I did it. In 2001, my book A Map for the Journey: Living Meaningfully with Recurring Depression was published. It contains over 40 articles and stories relevant to all of us and our supporters. The MDA held a book launch for me, and arranged a radio interview. I have written several articles for the MDA since that time.

I moved to Salmon Arm in 2007. In late 2011, as I was healing from a year-long episode of clinical depression, Garry Hall and I decided to start a depression, bi-polar and anxiety support group in this community. This group has been flourishing since then. Garry retired from being a facilitator about a year ago.

What do you find most rewarding about doing this work?

Writing for the MDA, starting 20 years ago, was a gigantic step for me to take. By writing about my (and our) conditions, I learned so much more about how we live with these disorders when we are ill and when we are well, how much courage we require to navigate our episodes. I received countless insights through writing that inspired me to write more and more. I also recognized how difficult stigma is for us, and how challenging it is for friends and loved ones to support us in a loving and wise manner.

Being a facilitator has been – and continues to be – very rewarding. I have  met over 50 individuals who share our disorders at our bi-weekly meetings. I love inviting brave new participants to the group, and helping them to feel comfortable in this new setting. I am moved by the stories (experiences, challenges, pain and joy) of all the participants, and their resilience in healing.

Our motto is, “We’d rather share with strangers who understand, than with friends who don’t.” We have all become special friends with each other, a special extended “family.”

The greatest reward of being a facilitator is how my life has been deepened and enhanced by the enthusiastic participation of a broad spectrum of courageous individuals.

What kind of programs would you like to see offered in the future?

The MDA provides a wide range of excellent programs and services to people living in the Lower Mainland that are not available to those of us in the interior of BC. I’m unsure of what programs would be valuable administered from afar. We do find the web-site informative and inspiring.

What are three things that you do to feel happy and well?

Each of us can have a large tool kit of things that can help us a great deal to attain and maintain good mental health when we are in remission. Many of these tools are invaluable when we are ill. My tool kit contains many “items” that yours does too: good eating and sleeping habits, support from family, friends and my support group, a good relationship with my doctor and psychiatrist, and so on. In addition to these (and other) things that keep me as mentally healthy as possible, I keep my body fit with road cycling, cross-country skiing and swimming. These activities are also conducive to mental calmness – and that great plus – a rush of endorphins! Spiritual life is very important to me and sustains me critically through my tough episodes and nurtures me when I am well.

Meet Caer Weber – One of MDABC’s Wonderful Volunteers

                       caer

How did you come to be a volunteer at the MDABC?

I started to attend one of the support groups in 2009 though I wasn’t sure I liked it at first. Too scary. All those strangers! But after a couple of times I started to like it. Then I started to think that I would really love to facilitate a group. I had done some facilitating before and really loved it. So by 2010 I was facilitating a support group weekly and just loving it. I continued to do it until 2014.

What kind of volunteer work have you done at MDABC?

Last year I decided I wanted to change what I was doing with MDABC a bit. So I came up with a proposal. I offered to be a facilitator liaison. Essentially I would help train other facilitators – now that I had 4 years under my belt – to help Catherine St. Denis, Operations Manager, in her role of connecting all of the facilitators with the organization itself. To help be that bridge. I knew Catherine had more than a full plate. I think everyone does at MDABC. That’s why they need volunteers. Anyway, I started doing that last year.

I also started to think a lot about self-care and came up with another proposal. To run an 8-week closed group focusing on self-care. I ended up doing that in the spring earlier this year After that group MDABC asked me to run some half-day workshops on self-care. So I ran three of those workshops.

I continue to be facilitator liaison, and it’s quite a bit of work and quite challenging. I am also about to do 2 more half-day workshops on self-care and especially on self-compassion. I hope to do a lot more of those and maybe add-ons to them.

What do you find most rewarding about doing this work?

First, and possibly the most important thing is that just working with the staff at MDABC has been one of the most rewarding things about this work. They have given me a lot of space to run with my ideas and I’ve never had such a great and supportive environment to work in. I am so grateful for them.

I also find that I keep trying to make the things that I do better. I keep looking at them and saying “Am I satisfied with this or do I need to change something?” It feels like a very creative process. And when I do the facilitator training and meet the new facilitators it’s invigorating and inspiring to meet all these people who really want to help. When I do my self-care workshops I learn so much from what people tell me about their struggles. I get to know what the common themes are especially with people with mental illness.

It’s all absolutely fascinating and such a learning experience for me. A real gift.

What kind of programs would you like to see offered in the future?

I’d like to see a real campaign started that focuses on self-care, self-compassion and mindfulness. Some of those things have already begun. I would like to see us keep building on that theme. I have just begun using these things in my life and I’m amazed at how much better and how much more alive I feel. I really hope people have a way to learn that they are alright just as they are and none of us need to suffer quite so much if we are kinder to ourselves and are more present in the world. A waking up to self.

What are three things that you do to feel happy and well?

Right now I need my 30 minutes of meditation before bed. I have not been able to keep a meditation practice for this long before (8 ½ months) and I am noticing huge changes in my life. I am slowing down, am more grounded, and much softer and more compassionate towards myself and to others. And when I really blow it and get really upset about something I am now turning to mindfulness to help me find my center again.

So I think 1. meditation, 2. self-compassion and 3. ice cream or chocolate at least once a week. Oh yah and to be mindful through it all. Especially when eating the ice cream or chocolate.