My 360 Degree Story

As we continue to explore the theme of wellness in anticipation of the next issue of On Our Way: Recovery News, please find here a story by Peer Support Worker, Garry Brown. It is a story of turning his life around and moving forward in his recovery. It originally came to my colleague and I as an email message. Garry graciously agreed to have his story appear on the blog site.

My 360 Degree Story

Garry Brown 

I want to story share my story with you…. I am so thankful to get my life back to where I was nine years ago.  I lost everything except for…Toni [my dog]. Boy she is a loyal friend.  I was almost homeless.  I was fifty-five then when the doctor at Three Bridges Clinic diagnosed me as being Bi-Polar.  It was my pretty scary stuff for me, coming from a upper-middle class family, [to wind up] living in a roach infested [single]… room in the Downtown East side.  I was so lost, not knowing what I could ever do to get life back again.  So alone, I had just my dog.

It was my doctor who helped me first to get social assistance. There were about three or four months, where I lived on $81/month after my rent was paid. He also started the process for me to get BC Disability.  When I got my disability [benefits] I got a bus pass.  Boy was that valuable to me: “wheels” instead of walking.

Through Triumph I got volunteer work and part-time work.  I took Peer Support Training…about six years ago, and then took a course from Vancouver Career College to Teach English Second Language.  I also got some wonderful housing from St. James Church, got a two bedroom apartment, with all the fixings: stove, oven, washer, dyer, dish washer and a balcony.  This really started to transform me.

I have been doing Peer Work for almost six years now, and this has helped [me] so much to grow, develop and become me again.  I met Teho and we were married three years ago. Doing a lot of work with Peer Support and my disability I qualified for a mortgage, 2.99% fixed for five years.

Yes, we bought a nice Condo, Townhouse in Maple Ridge. It is one block off Lougheed Highway, sits on a hill with a clear view of the Fraser River.  It is 24 years old, 870 sq. ft, with a 300 sq. ft balcony to view the river.  It has been a dream to have a garden.  Well having a large deck, facing south I will finally have a terrace garden.  I want to raise my own vegetables.  Why this feels so awesome to me is, the mortgage was based solely on what I make, not Teho.  Teho is going to  rent out his condo in Surrey.

For me to do all this, my dream has gone true.  I have my life back.

I have my health, my partner, my work and our new home…My success story is not because of a mental health team. Basically I did this on my own.

My mother who has been dead for twenty years, her voice would be in my thinking. A stubborn woman, highly determined — her voice rang strong: “Come hell or high water”,  I will get this done. Another [saying of hers came to mind], “whatever it takes”.

This is not the first time my determination and inner strength drove me on.  I decided when I was fifteen to become a Lutheran minister.  I have learning disabilities.  So, I studied way more than anyone I knew.

Dam, I am going to succeed and I did.  It was my mother and father who believed in me, gave me the chance.  My high school counsellor told my parents I was not college material.  Well, I then got my master’s in Theology and Pastoral Care.

I did it forty years ago and now at sixty-three, I did it again.  What support did I get?  First it was the face of Jesus and His words spoke about life  and hope. It was also you, Debbie and Renea who I had my training with [in] Peer Support, through Vancouver Health. Wow, what wonderful, supportive co-workers.  Then my four-legged friend, Toni, who I have been with, since she was born twelve years ago [helped also].

Thank you, Renea and Debbie for sharing, giving and supporting.  Love you gals.

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3 responses to “My 360 Degree Story

  1. Garry and Tahoe

    Your story is inspiring and it encourages anyone with a disability that Yes they can succeed with alot of hard work and perseverence. I congratulate you and Tahoe on your achievements!!!! I saw your effort and respect that you follow thru on your plans. Enjoy your new home. Take care and see you around. Debbie Gladue and Reggie Meyer.

  2. Your story is so heartwarming and positive. Did you come back to Jesus and are you a minister now? God is speaking to me everywhere I turn these days. I am one who took many detours away from him in the last 25 years. Now I’m finally on my way back.

  3. I was encouraged and blessed to read your story. Did you come back to Jesus and are you a Lutheran minister now? Everywhere I turn these days I’m seeing God. It is wonderful.
    I have been in a wilderness wandering away from my fellowship with God for 25 years.;taking many detours and following worthless persuits and unequally yoked relationships. I’m now on way way back home.

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