This Sunday October 22 I have been asked to be the Keynote Speaker at the Caritas School of Life,  Together Event in Vaughan.  This event provides a unique opportunity for the community to share in the struggles and successes of its members.  It is also the first time for members of the Caritas community to see and speak to their families for the first time in six months.  This year’s theme is “The Journey”.

29 years on my journey through mental illness has taught me that having mental illness is an ongoing process of recovery.   Recovery does not mean I have made it to the other side, crossed the bridge or been cured of mental illness.  Recovery means that I have accepted that mental illness is a part of who I am.  It is as valid a part of me as the things about me that I love.  It is not all of me and completely me but a part of my being-ness.  That is the acceptance that keeps me well.

I have built the inner resilience in myself to self-regulate myself when my situations and emotions overwhelm me.  For me that foundation was built through Transpersonal Psychotherapy and Voice Dialogue.  I am able to navigate through emotional experiences today, in a way that 30 years ago, I was ill equipped to.  Today, there are many organizations offering treatment programs that were not available when I started my journey in 1988.  One of those organizations is Caritas School of Life.  It offers programs for Mental Illness and Addictions free of cost.  Caritas School of Life is a registered charity, providing a comprehensive addictions recovery and mental health program with a Therapeutic Community Approach.  Incorporating healing of the mind, body and ‘spirit’ their twenty-four month program, the longest in North America,  supports residents as they develop the social, emotional and life-skills necessary to lead a productive and addictions-free life.  With an 80% success rate, Caritas also works with school and community groups to provide addictions education.

I believe that the most lasting and profound gift in life we can give to one another is sharing our stories.  Our stories have the power to create understanding, support healing, spread compassion, ignite hope and create unity beyond what we can imagine.

I am honoured for the privilege to connect and share my journey with members of this community and their families.   Like them I am a person on a path of recovery, living with mental illness.  The path of recovery is a continuous work in progress.  Some days are better than others but every day is a new day and every day brings more wisdom and experience and confidence than the day before.  The commitment to show up for treatment, to take medication, to practice self-compassion, to give self-love and to reach out for support when I need it are the tools that I use at every stage of the work in progress that is RECOVERY.