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.