I have struggled with bipolar disorder my entire life. I was diagnosed nearly 12 years ago during a dark and scary time. Over the next decade, I tried every treatment imaginable—including dozens of medications and electroconvulsive therapy—before running out of options. I felt hopeless and alone. I started to think it was pointless to put so much effort into recovery when nothing seemed to help. In the midst of a horrible episode in 2016, I realized I needed to make some serious lifestyle changes to try to manage my illness.
But I didn’t do it alone. CAMH helped me find a whole new way to live. When no one else could or would help me, CAMH was there. When I didn’t have any hope, CAMH was there. I quit smoking with the help of the CAMH Nicotine Dependence Clinic, changed the way I was eating and started to look at other stressors in my life with the help of the Mood Disorders Clinic.
The past year and a half have been difficult, but it’s all been worth it. After getting the help I needed, I was able to think about my future for the first time and how I wanted to spend my retirement. Growing up, I always loved spending time outdoors and camping in the wilderness. I moved to my dream home in Northern Ontario—my “happy place” that supports my ongoing recovery. My partner and I lead a healthy lifestyle, eating locally farmed foods and embracing nature and fresh air. Our lives are simple and beautiful. Without CAMH’s care and support, I would not have had the solutions, the tools, the skills or the encouragement I needed to achieve a better quality of life. Now when I have bad days, I sit by the river and enjoy the peace and quiet, reflecting on how far I’ve come.
CAMH is able to do such amazing work because of all of the donors who want to make a difference. I want to make a difference, too. It was important for me to give back for the kindness and compassion I received every day from the staff at CAMH—and ensure that no one goes through the dark and scary times alone. I decided to remember CAMH in my Will because people struggling with severe mental illness should have every opportunity afforded to anyone else. We still have a lot of work to do for mental health and I believe CAMH is at the forefront of making sure change continues to happen. CAMH’s hard work, advocacy and belief showed me that life can get better. Thank you, CAMH, for being there for me and empowering me. Thank you for giving me hope and helping me realize my dream.