For those living with a mental health concern, genuine connection with others on similar journeys can make all the difference in their recovery.
For Priscilla, it was connection that meant the true beginning of her journey to wellness.
Sexually abused at the age of five and a string of abusive relationships throughout her life were the foundations of trauma which eventually took a huge toll on her mental health. She describes feeling “like a complete shell of a human.”
“I felt numb, empty, alone and really afraid. Afraid of what people would think of me now, afraid that I had [already] lived the best years of my life, and from there on out it would just be dismal, depressing and pointless,” Priscilla says.
She recalls expecting every day that she should just wake up and feel like herself again.
“When that wasn’t happening in the time frame I wanted, I then would pray to God that he would let me pass away peacefully in my sleep. Every time I went to sleep, I would pray that it was my last.”
She didn’t feel like she could talk about her struggles due to the stigma that surrounds mental health, and the isolation only made it harder for her to heal.
“I have always had amazing friends and family, but [mental health] is not something that we talked about. Nobody talked about it,” Priscilla explains.
It was when a friend introduced her to the peer support program and CMHA Calgary three years ago that she truly started on her path to wellness. She says she was drawn to the real, raw connection with people who understood where she was coming from.
“[With Peer Support] there’s no pretending, there are no more masks. It’s comfortable. It just feels like home.”
Not only did she immerse herself in peer support on a personal level but was inspired to use her story to help others. Now, as a trained Peer Support Worker at CMHA Calgary’s recently opened Welcome Centre and Recovery College, she is doing just that.
“It doesn’t even feel like a job at all. It’s like ‘whose lives are we going to change today?’”
Along with providing one-on-one peer support in the Welcome Centre, Priscilla also co-facilitates courses as part of the Recovery College. She describes it as a place where you can “come [to] learn how to be the best version of yourself.”
“It’s like no place that I have been a part of. Even if I didn’t work here, I would still come as a community member,” she explains. “I want everyone to experience Recovery College.”
From learning to set healthy boundaries to creating a self-care routine, the Recovery College provides practical courses that everyone can benefit from. Priscilla has seen first-hand just how much of an impact these programs are truly making.
“Some people feel relieved right away. You can see their eyes brighten up,” she says. “What we are doing is working.”
The numbers prove it. Since opening its doors in May, the Recovery College has already seen over 2,050 students, and that number is quickly growing. All programs at CMHA Calgary are free of charge and without waiting lists. In order to continue to ensure that no one is turned away, we need your support, which is why we’ve launched the Turni2We campaign.
Your donation can go a long way in helping someone feel like they belong, and that they matter. Donate today.
For more information about the Recovery College and Welcome Centre, visit www.recoverycollegecalgary.ca or stop by and feel the warmth and connection for yourself.