Melissa Weiler proudly holds her first self-published book. Entitled “Emotions”, it is a collection of thought-provoking poems written over a 30-year span. Many emanate feelings from her high school days. They are reflections on life, loss and all the mixed emotions of being a teenager.
Melissa, 48, started writing poetry at the tender age of age 13 – even winning a contest for her poem entitled, “Pondering Over Everything.” When she puts pen to paper she discovers her inner poet. Proud, but not boastful, she jokingly admits, “I sometimes surprise myself with what I write.”
She has a right to be proud. As a young child, Melissa was diagnosed with aphasia, a communication disorder that results from damage or injury to language parts of the brain. The disorder impacts an individual’s ability to use or understand words, but does not impair the person’s intelligence.
Melissa was bullied throughout high school. Facing many struggles throughout her life, Melissa strived to be positive and pursued her dreams.
With perseverance and the help of St. Joseph’s Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams, Melissa has now accomplished one of her childhood dreams – to become a published poet.
ACT teams provide specialized community-based services to adults living with severe, complex and persistent mental illness between the ages of 18 and 65. ACT clinicians are specially trained to support individuals in regaining a healthy, meaningful and fulfilling place in their community. The ACT team is made of up of psychiatrists, nurses, occupational therapists, social workers, vocational counsellors and addictions counsellors.
ACT teams use proven therapeutic principles and approaches to promote independence and improve quality of life. St. Joseph’s manages seven ACT teams across Southwestern Ontario, covering London-Middlesex, Elgin and Oxford Counties.
The Elgin ACT team helped Melissa connect with various organizations, including The Ontario Disability Support Program. Independently, she then reached out and worked with each organization to successfully apply and receive a $500 grant to publish her book.
“We helped Melisa establish connections in the beginning but she took over from there,” says Max Borowiec, a registered nurse with the Elgin ACT teams. “She worked with the Small Business Enterprise Centre to make the book and even arranged and promoted a book signing to her local book shop. She remained very motivated to see her goal though.”
Melissa’s journey may be filled with many more emotions to come, but for now she keeps her focus on one goal only.
“Just don’t give up,” she says. “Keep following your dreams.”