Stories from Clients
Sarah & Shawn
On July 5th, 2003 at a United Church in Barrie, Sarah and Shawn became husband and wife. Their love story began one year before at a local community agency, Mental Health Supportive Services, where they met at the breakfast club. Not until the Christmas party organized through RSVP did they start to visit with each other more. “She was trying to get my attention,” Shawn remembers. Sarah remembers seeing Shawn at Tim Horton’s where she worked; “I guess I thought he was cute – I noticed his eyes.” Their relationship was secured when Shawn’s brother invited Sarah over for Christmas dinner, where their love for each other was clear.
Both Sarah and Shawn moved around a lot throughout their lives. Shawn comes from a family of five boys. At 22 years old Shawn’s family lived in Gravenhurst, and this is where his symptoms first began. At times more intense than others, his voices and hallucinations needed attention. Once on medication Shawn was able to learn how to manage the voices – he mentions that at times he still hears them but they do not distract him any longer.
Sarah moved to Barrie with her grandmother when she was 21 years old. Her mother had passed away when Sarah was 14 from a brain tumor and her father was in South Africa doing missionary work. While in Barrie, Sarah worked at Tim Horton’s where other staff members began to notice her outbursts and suggested she see a doctor. Sarah was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and began receiving service from RVH outpatient programs; from there she was referred to RSVP.
What you would change about the world?…
Randy’s welcoming smile and jokes greet many of our staff every morning. His story begins in Parry Sound where at the age of 9 he was hit by a car. He suffered from major brain damage resulting in a coma for 90 days. Due to his need for increased care and the lack of family funds he moved to Edgar Adult Occupational Centre at the age of 16. By 21 years old Randy left to go work at Arch Industries; however, he had some trouble in the community and returned to Edgar. The days spent there were not pleasant for Randy; he found the staff mean and neglectful. He often witnessed other patients suffer unrightfully and one even died from what Randy believed to be lack of attention. However, among all of these bad memories Randy fondly remembers having “a pile of girlfriends.” The closing of Edgar was Randy’s saving grace; he was 38 years old.
Randy came to Barrie and struggled with maintaining stable housing. He came to CMHA’s RSVP in 1991. Randy smiles and refers to these as “the good old days.” He moved 10 times between rooming houses before getting connected with our Homelessness Initiative Program; he has currently been living in his apartment for 3 years and states that the apartment changed his life and he is “a lot happier now.”
Randy remembers a few women that have touched his heart. Alice is a good friend of his that he met in his mid 40s. He sees her every week and speaks of her with a soft
Today Randy spends much of his time walking around Barrie, helping local convenience stores, and playing Yahtzee in RSVP.
As a positive and leading member of RSVP, Jeff can always be seen around CMHA joking and talking with staff and clients. Jeff was born in Toronto and moved north near the end of elementary school. His longest stay was in Wasaga Beach with his mother and brother. Jeff completed grade 11 and remembers shop class as one of his favourites – “I made wooden tables, toys, latters and hammers.” With a large smile and pride in his eyes he tells of his star moments in his math class; in a competition to finish 150 math equations in five minutes or less, Jeff completed all equations in 3½ minutes, a class record.
While in Wasaga Beach Jeff began spending many hours and days away from home – his mom was worried about him and sent out the local police to find him. Jeff was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital where he spent 2½ weeks – resulting in a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. After another hospital admission Jeff was then connected with CMHA. Jeff left the hospital on a Community Treatment Order. He recalls that this helped him to see that he had a “mental illness and that it needed to be taken care of.”
Jeff remembers connecting with RSVP, and states some of his first memories are “the friendships that I built here.” Nowadays, Jeff often refers to RSVP as “his second home!” If not in RSVP he can be found in his community, often riding the buses or walking down around the water. He leaves his home every morning at 8:30am and does not return until 8:30 every night. Jeff prides himself in keeping connected and busy within his community.
At eight months old Alex began her fight. She underwent bypass surgery at Sick Kids Hospital for a heart condition. For the first 5 years of Alex’s life she returned to Sick Kids every month for a battery of tests. When remembering these days she speaks fondly of the staff and their dedication to children’s health.
Alex arrived in Barrie at the age of 18 where she moved 7 times in a year and a half. During this time she tended to stay in her apartment leaving only to go to school where she was upgrading her courses to start the nursing program at Georgian College. During this stressful time she was admitted to the hospital as her hallucinations were becoming increasingly worrisome. From here she was referred to CMHA Case Management. As a result of another hospitalization and her unstable living arrangements she was accepted into the Homelessness Initiative Program. Alex was ecstatic about receiving her own place. She remembers when she saw the first apartment, “I’m not going to be picky, I’m thankful I have somewhere to go.”
Throughout Alex’s struggles she has maintained a strong relationship with her sister, her dad and her mom. Every Saturday for the past five years they’ve enjoyed brunch together at a local eatery – her favourite – Sophie’s. She also enjoyed working at the speedway stock car racing with her dad. She was there for two years where she loved the fast paced expectations of working in the pit area.
Alex has been a regular member of RSVP, enjoying the positive social atmosphere and activities. She has recently connected with the ACT Team where she feels a sense of full support. Alex is near completing her RPN with the practicum being her last goal to achieve in the program. From the care and support she has received from the professionals around her she is looking forward to working in a field that will allow her to pay it forward.
Most of my life, I couldn’t put a finger on it, but I felt a bit different from my family, friends, and classmates. I remember feeling social anxiety, paranoia, psychotic, suicidal, and depressed. I was also hearing voices along with feeling ups and downs. When these emotions came, I felt overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to do or who to talk to.
Three years ago, I was really depressed and full of anxieties due to thelife situation I was in. The high school that I was enrolled in at thetime, introduced me to a case worker. They immediately noticed that Iwas going through problems in my life and started getting me into youthgroups where I could meet other youths who were in similar situations asmyself, learn coping strategies, and make friends as well. The groupsthat the Canadian Mental Health Association offer are amazing! Youalways feel safe in them and you know that confidentiality is importantto everyone there. I was also able to have the opportunity to beenlisted in their housing program, which got me out of the negativehousehold situation that I was in and get me to become my own person.