Fighting on

Fighting On

As the year 2016 is soon coming to a close, I find myself reminiscing about my mental health journey. It has been full of ups and downs, many victories and some very trying times. However, I look back at where I was a year ago, and it is amazing to see how far I have come. It has been my goal this year and heading into next to really challenge myself in terms of my anxiety. I can say with pride that I have done that so far this year. I started off the year with taking the Stand Up for Mental Health class. To say it was life changing would be an understatement. David Granirer taught me that it is possible to laugh at what we are going through and not to treat our mental illness as a death sentence. When I started the class, I was quite depressed and lacking hope. However, I came out of it at the end a new person. I have more confidence, a new sense of humour and a whole new feeling of hope. I am so grateful to have taken the SMH course and meeting David because it was truly life changing.

This past summer was also a big victory, thanks to some amazing staff at the Whale House and my amazing friends. I was able to tackle my bus anxiety. I finally realized that people wouldn’t take the bus if the seats were as bad as my anxiety says they are. I watched people get on the bus and sit anywhere, not obsessively looking at their seat to see if it was "clean". With this new understanding, I managed to ride the bus to and from the Whale House almost every day of the summer. I can finally step onto the bus and quickly find a seat, sit down for the duration of the trip and not get up every few minutes to check my seat. It just doesn’t bother me anymore, and if it does, I quickly shut those
thoughts down.

In the past year, I have also been making some decisions to better my physical health. The biggest change I made was to stop drinking pop. What a change! I never realized how much pop I was drinking until I lost 30 lbs. in the first 6 months of not drinking it! I am constantly getting people commenting on how I have lost weight and it is encouraging. One of the problems with some anti-psychotic medications is the side effect of weight gain. I have gained a lot of weight over the last 15 years. But! I have lost quite a bit in the last year. It is something that I continue to work on.

One thing that I joke a lot about is eating with my hands. I would eat EVERYTHING with a knife and fork. I would use a Kleenex to take my medication. I would eat pizza with a knife and fork. I would eat sandwiches and garlic bread with a knife and fork. I would eat potato chips with a fork. However, just in the last 2 or 3 months I have really challenged
myself to start eating with my hands again. What a huge success! I think the biggest victory was going to the Peer Support Worker training day and eating my bread roll with my hands. NO one noticed but I gave myself some credit because that was a huge step. When I went to the island to celebrate my birthday with Christopher, Michelle and Cadence, I shocked them by eating my pizza, taking my medication, eating snacks and sandwiches all with my hands. Now at home, I eat my potato chips with my hands. I take my medication straight from my hand. It certainly is less cutlery to do! (haha) and also another step at not letting my anxiety control my life.

Probably my biggest success this year has been training to become a Peer Support Worker. It's been a very interesting time studying. However, I have realized that it is my passion in life to help others. It took just over 2 years to complete all of the training, but on December 2, 2016 1 graduated as a Peer Support Worker. There were times where I thought I couldn't do it and I couldn't finish my practicum. But, I had the support of so many people. I shadowed some amazing Peer Support Workers who taught me so much. I had great classmates who were always a support. I had my dad pushing me along, encouraging me to have a positive attitude, even through the low times. When I step off the IPU after a shift, 1 look to the sky and smile because I know I have found my meaning in life. I have finally found where I am meant to be. As my mom was a nurse many years ago, I know she is so proud of me going into the hospital to help the IPU patients. I have a job doing the very thing that I love. There are many opportunities coming up after the holidays!

I hope I haven't rambled on too much. I just wanted to share some of the changes and victories I have had in 2016. I notice that when I am out with people, things don't bother me as much as they used to. Riding the bus. My weight. Eating with my hands. Those are just a few examples. I have made SO much progress over the last year, and I feel like a whole different, better person, than I was a year ago. I feel like I have grown immensely and battled my illness with great victory.

So, my message to you is to keep fighting! There will always be the hard times. There will always be struggles. But! If you stay strong, determined and have a positive attitude, you can accomplish so much. Take things one day at a time — don't expect a complete overnight success. There is so much hope out there. It took a lot of trying and determination for me to make it to this point, but I know you can do it too. Keep your head up high. Be proud of who you are, and tell those people/things that try to shut you down, that you CAN do it!

Ashleigh Singleton