My 360 Degree Story

Spotlight On Mental Health

garryAs we continue to explore the theme of wellness in anticipation of the next issue of On Our Way: Recovery News, please find here a story by Peer Support Worker, Garry Brown. It is a story of turning his life around and moving forward in his recovery. It originally came to my colleague and I as an email message. Garry graciously agreed to have his story appear on the blog site.

My 360 Degree Story

Garry Brown 

I want to story share my story with you…. I am so thankful to get my life back to where I was nine years ago.  I lost everything except for…Toni [my dog]. Boy she is a loyal friend.  I was almost homeless.  I was fifty-five then when the doctor at Three Bridges Clinic diagnosed me as being Bi-Polar.  It was my pretty scary stuff for me, coming from a upper-middle class family, [to wind up] living in a roach infested [single]… room in the Downtown East side.  I was so lost, not knowing what I could ever do to get life back again.  So alone, I had just my dog.

It was my doctor who helped me first to get social assistance. There were about three or four months, where I lived on $81/month after my rent was paid. He also started the process for me to get BC Disability.  When I got my disability [benefits] I got a bus pass.  Boy was that valuable to me: “wheels” instead of walking.

Through Triumph I got volunteer work and part-time work.  I took Peer Support Training…about six years ago, and then took a course from Vancouver Career College to Teach English Second Language.  I also got some wonderful housing from St. James Church, got a two bedroom apartment, with all the fixings: stove, oven, washer, dyer, dish washer and a balcony.  This really started to transform me.

I have been doing Peer Work for almost six years now, and this has helped [me] so much to grow, develop and become me again.  I met Teho and we were married three years ago. Doing a lot of work with Peer Support and my disability I qualified for a mortgage, 2.99% fixed for five years.

Yes, we bought a nice Condo, Townhouse in Maple Ridge. It is one block off Lougheed Highway, sits on a hill with a clear view of the Fraser River.  It is 24 years old, 870 sq. ft, with a 300 sq. ft balcony to view the river.  It has been a dream to have a garden.  Well having a large deck, facing south I will finally have a terrace garden.  I want to raise my own vegetables.  Why this feels so awesome to me is, the mortgage was based solely on what I make, not Teho.  Teho is going to  rent out his condo in Surrey.

For me to do all this, my dream has gone true.  I have my life back.

I have my health, my partner, my work and our new home…My success story is not because of a mental health team. Basically I did this on my own.

My mother who has been dead for twenty years, her voice would be in my thinking. A stubborn woman, highly determined — her voice rang strong: “Come hell or high water”,  I will get this done. Another [saying of hers came to mind], “whatever it takes”.

This is not the first time my determination and inner strength drove me on.  I decided when I was fifteen to become a Lutheran minister.  I have learning disabilities.  So, I studied way more than anyone I knew.

Dam, I am going to succeed and I did.  It was my mother and father who believed in me, gave me the chance.  My high school counsellor told my parents I was not college material.  Well, I then got my master’s in Theology and Pastoral Care.

I did it forty years ago and now at sixty-three, I did it again.  What support did I get?  First it was the face of Jesus and His words spoke about life  and hope. It was also you, Debbie and Renea who I had my training with [in] Peer Support, through Vancouver Health. Wow, what wonderful, supportive co-workers.  Then my four-legged friend, Toni, who I have been with, since she was born twelve years ago [helped also].

Thank you, Renea and Debbie for sharing, giving and supporting.  Love you gals.