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
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.