This testimonial is from a Recovery College participant. Pictured above is the Recovery College team at Ontario Shores, photographed during the Recovery College Celebration this past August 2023.
“My fate lies not in the labels others place for me, but for those I place myself.”
My mental health journey began decades ago as a teen when I had received my first label…depression and panic disorder! Sadly, my family doctor never inquired into my underlying causes of grief, an abortion, an abusive partner and the murder of a beloved teacher That’s when I started to disappear.
My next label…bipolar! This was given to me in a hospital where I ended up after being arrested by police. Here they were able to stabilize my mood, but they left me isolated and misunderstood. I tried to come to terms with this new label that was more stigmatizing than the last. Was I hurting? Was I trying to heal? No one bothered to ask.
Label number three…schizoaffective! All I could hear was “schizo” and it sent me spiralling. I was left coping with a disorder I never wanted. One that filled me with resentment and embarrassment.
Recovery College at Ontario Shores has been a rich opportunity to learn, grow and heal. I often felt anxious and low after being discharged from the hospital. Here I found the structure I needed to establish new routines and accelerate my transition to purposeful living. The course topics were focussed, yet versatile, including explorations of creative writing, storytelling, conflict resolution, food and even body, art and advocacy. The facilitators were exceptionally skilled at fostering a positive culture that left me feeling heard, informed and inspired. What stood out most for me were the other participants who shared from deep within themselves, fostering a community of sensitivity and mutual appreciation of ideas and perspectives. Overall, I accredit a great deal of my healing to Recovery College through the development of routines around consistent course schedules, through psycho education that was engaging and highly participatory and through the transformative nature of being a part of a community of learners with lived experience of mental illness.
If you do need to label me, here are a few to consider. Holder of three professional degrees. Graduating top of my class. Valedictorian. Successful teacher for six years. Currently learning three languages.
I am just beginning to tell my story. My fate lies not in the labels others place on me, but for those I place on myself. Here’s to my next chapter of self discovery and ungluing.