A message of hope and recovery: Nicky shares her story to raise awareness for National Mental Health Week.
Four years ago, Nicky was living on the streets. With nothing but the clothing on her back, she felt alone, lost and was suffering from a mental illness she had left untreated.
Nicky has schizoaffective disorder, a relatively uncommon condition where an individual experiences both psychotic symptoms and serious fluctuations in mood. Diagnosed at age 22, she has been learning to manage her symptoms since she was a young woman and believes that acceptance of her mental illness was the first step towards her recovery.
“I used to think I was just a wild person,” says Nicky. “But that wasn’t me, that was my illness. Once I had accepted the fact that I had a mental health disorder, I found it easier to seek treatment and stick to taking my medication.”
The Canadian Mental Health Association’s National Mental Health Week is May 7 to 13, 2012; an annual campaign aimed at encouraging people from all walks of life to learn, talk, reflect and engage with others on all issues relating to mental health. As a way to reach out to those who may be struggling with a mental illness during this week of awareness, Nicky wants to share her story and her successes in managing her illness.
Nicky eventually became a voluntary patient at St. Joseph’s Regional Mental Health Care (RMHC) in the Mood and Anxiety Program, where she still attends regular appointments as an outpatient. But excellent and compassionate medical care is only one component of recovery. It’s vital for those dealing with a mental illness to feel useful as a contributing member of society, says Nicky.
“I remember feeling as though everyone else was involved in something meaningful…and I was on the outskirts. I now realize that all things are possible for me too.”
Nicky volunteers her time in many ways at RMHC, including playing the organ at services held in the Chapel of Hope
Living in her own apartment for the past three years, Nicky is now successfully managing her illness and living a life full of activity. She works part time as a professional animal groomer, teaches music out of her home, plays the organ at the RMHC Chapel of Hope services held for patients, and is volunteer at RMHC where she visits with patients and takes part in a recovery education course for family members.
“We are all meant to live full and meaningful lives,” says Nicky. “I hope talking about my recovery will help to inspire others.”