Karen has lived with mental illness most of her life. At different points, she has been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, anorexia, panic and anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
These illnesses left her on disability benefits for ten years and struggling for a time with substance abuse.
Karen remembers how she felt before she sought help through the Rehabilitation and Recovery Service offered by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), which is supported by United Way Winnipeg donors.
“I felt like I was in the deepest hole I’d ever been in,” she says. “There was no light at all, no hope at all. I didn’t want to live.”
After attempting suicide nine times, Karen chose to make a change. That’s when she visited the CMHA for the first time.
“I decided it’s either I die or I try to pick myself up and fix myself,” she says.
It was a life-changing decision.
By working through a step-by-step process with a Rehabilitation Worker, participants in the CMHA’s Rehabilitation and Recovery Service learn coping skills and make changes that enable them to lead successful and satisfying lives.
Through the service, Karen had the opportunity to develop a wellness plan, gain self-awareness and insight about recovery, learn how to problem solve issues before a crisis develops, as well as how to respond to and manage stress.
“One thing it taught me is that just because I have a mental health diagnosis doesn’t mean I have to feel like a loser,” says Karen, who often felt like “a burden to everybody” before she visited the CMHA.
Through the Rehabilitation and Recovery Service, Karen connected with a counsellor who she says has profoundly impacted her life.
“He’s helped me realize I have a purpose—that people do need me and that I’ve got something to offer the world,” she says. “Without him, I don’t think I would have realized that.”
The service gave Karen the confidence to go back to college at the age of 56. She graduated at the beginning of 2020 with a 92 per cent average, and recently found work as a community support worker at a social services agency.
In her spare time, Karen spends time with her long-term partner, as well as her granddaughter. She also facilitates programs at the CMHA and gives presentations on a variety of mental health topics.
“I credit the CMHA with saving my life,” she says. “I’m such a different person now than I was when I first went there. I’m much more confident.”
She strongly recommends the organization to others.
“If you’re suffering from mental health, addictions or anything like that, and you want help, please, please, please check out the CMHA,” Karen says. “They’re a great place to go and get that help.”