A week after the volunteers and staff from mindyourmind visited us; I was still fresh in the mind about the community. Little did I know that they were coming to visit again. I had a choice to join and participate, and this time, I didn’t spend anytime refusing; I immediately said yes instead. Of course, like the usual day at the day-treatment program, I was facing a clique of others and keeping myself out of that atmosphere.
I had my fair share of outpatient, inpatient and group therapy treatments, but before all of that, I was first in the Mental Health day-treatment program at the children’s hospital.- Part 1 of 'My Summer at the Hospital':read it here
After coming back from a treatment program from the first floor of the hospital, I came back to the main room and found the folks at mindyourmind visiting once again. It was a fast-paced environment and a variety of items were scattered over the two big tables of the main room, and everyone passing glues and scissors, so I was wondering what everyone was up to. Then I was told that we were making Worry Dolls, and was given a small round wooden sphere to make the doll’s head, and a few broken matchsticks to make the doll’s body.
I was looking at the examples of the Worry Dolls, and saw many with sparkles, and flashing colors of hair, some were neutral while others were flamboyant. I asked what the Worry Dolls were for, and was told that the Worry Dolls are there so you can put all your worries in to them. It was a symbolic gesture, but it was creative and a change.
When I was finished, I created my Worry Doll and named her Cecilia Clementine. I really didn’t know what to name her, but I used Cecilia from the name of a story book character, and Clementine from a famous nursery rhyme. I was pretty fascinated by all of the dolls, and laughed at the creativity about how one of us made a robot doll. The technique from the mindyourmind crew ended up being useful, as I didn’t really think of a worry while making the doll. From this day, I still have Cecilia Clementine, and she is placed carefully in a small black flowery box.
Fast forward to outpatient treatments, two inpatient stints, two group therapy treatments, and another outpatient treatment, and I am now in the second semester of Grade 11. From the summer of 2007 to now, 2010, I have used mindyourmind as an outlet for my stress. Instead of feeling ashamed, I didn’t care about what others think, because of the effect of the anti-stigma that mindyourmind was promoting towards Mental Illness and Mental Health. I still find it a shame that many high school students still think that people who have anxiety or depression “need to get over themselves”, because it is not something that you can easily snap out of, it’s not like getting over losing a game of tic tact toe; it’s complex. The fact that mindyourmind serves to people of any demographic was what got me in, as friends of people affected by mental illnesses can read and understand about what is going on and how to help their friends. Same with parents and family, as it can be a learning tool. I started telling my friends who were going through similar issues like I was going through and told them about mindyourmind, and it was a proof for them not having to be afraid of being labelled, because that stigma is not true.
Then I got really interested, and wanted to volunteer for mindyourmind. I was interested in volunteering for mindyourmind since Grade 9, but I didn’t know how. So the summer before Grade 11, I decided to go with my instincts and contact the staff at mindyourmind to ask about volunteering. From there, I got to be a part of a group of youth, two nursing students and the staff of mindyourmind and Kids Help Phone and create a game called No Signal for the new Kids Help Phone site. Then I got the opportunity to join the mindyourmind Youth Street Team 2009/2010, which took place from November 2009 and ended February 2010. It truly felt like a community, and in a way, it was therapy for me, knowing that I was in a group that was helping others. Even with the lowest moments in this year, I still found motivation because of mindyourmind, and looked forward to every Wednesday when it was the weekly meetings for the Street Team, which is a good thing, because not everyone looks forward to Wednesdays, but Fridays instead. To be a volunteer of mindyourmind was a life-changing experience, as I found a better direction of what I want to do in the future.
I know that the staff and crew at mindyourmind is extremely modest and humble, so they really don’t know how much they have changed the lives of others like me. In my words, I think they deserve to credit themselves more often! Being a volunteer for mindyourmind has helped me with my confidence and my attitude towards everything. The relaxed pace was an outlet for my days after school. Being in the moment and not getting stuck in the past or future may sound easy, but it’s hard. However, after learning the hard way and being a human, we can only live and take one day at a time After years with struggling with therapy, I found that I learned with DBT and mindyourmind is that getting active is a key start to a healthy direction. Even if the experiences of the past were traumatic, you can channel that firsthand experience into helping others who have gone through, or to prevent others from going through the same. It may sound weird at first, but if you come to think of it, helping is one of the best ways to heal. I guess the best therapy is volunteering and helping others after all.
By Amanda A., age 16