26 Sep Member Spotlight: Gwen R. in Her Own Words
My name is Gwen R. and I am a member of Vail Place.
I first said no to ever talking about Vail Place because I have severe general anxiety, severe social anxiety, and depression.
But … I want to talk to you … so damn this anxiety … here I go.
I’ve been in and out of psych wards a lot … some years more than I can count or remember… due to severe anxiety and depression. Avoidance has been my “drug of choice.”
Avoidance at first seemed to give me relief from the anxiety… but after a while avoidance no longer seemed to help me feel better.
In 1999, the year before I checked out Vail Place, I had lived in isolation. That year I had only gotten together with family once. I did talk to my mom on the phone once every three weeks… but I did that only to avoid her bugging me unexpectedly. I pretty much only saw my therapist that year.
What brought me to Vail Place was that I was tired of feeling alone and tired of feeling like crap. I remembered Social Rec from the hospital had helped me some. So when I found out Vail Place had Social Rec I finally, in 2000, checked it out. Yet at Vail Place I surprisingly have found much more. I’ve found low-cost tasty meals and good company and even some laughter. I have felt less sick and hopeless. There I don’t feel like a patient or client. There I am treated by staff and other members as a whole, capable person. Even as an equal.
Over time I’ve helped out at Vail Place more and more and even found that small things I could do were valued. I even inched my way towards my dreaded four-letter work – Work. Vail Place helped me ready myself for job training. I started slowly … and gradually increased my days. Then my training unexpectedly was ended. Luckily, I was hired at that insurance company where I was trained.
I worked full-time for six years. In 2010 I was laid off. It was a shock.
Without too much detail… I then tried school right away, since that company said they’d pay for a limited time. When that didn’t work out for me I struggled with an eating disorder, survived breast cancer, went to intensive and partial programs. I struggled with the will to go on. At the end of this last partial program my pet, who I was very close to, died… and my mom was dying.
I knew where unconditional support was, so I got myself back to Vail Place. After I finished the last partial program I rushed into accepting a short-term transitional job through Vail Place. One reason I rushed was that I wanted to convince my mom that could eventually support myself. I didn’t want her to worry too, as she was dying.
I was going to try that job. But it was too soon. Too much pressure. I quit before I started. Then from guilt, avoidance, anxiety, depression, and grief I isolated again 2017-2018 – in my bed for a year.
Vail Place never gave up on me. After a year and a half of avoiding the phone out of guilt and avoiding family… I finally went back to Vail Place… to forgiveness, community, and hope. I’m getting another chance. I’ve been working part-time now for several months in a Vail Place transitional employment position at Fortune Fish (Coastal Seafood). It has gone well and my skills and my confidence in my abilities are improving bit by bit. Now I am pleased that with the continued training and support of Vail Place, tomorrow I will be starting a new clerical transitional job at the University of St. Thomas with more hours, so more pay.
So I’ll stop there. I pretty much know I’ve talked too long. I’ll get right to the point. Vail Place has been there for me – even if just to go for a good low-cost meal or to get away from my messy, lonely apartment.
I believe it is very important for All people, Us included, to feel valued and to contribute to our society.
With Vail Place we have many opportunities to be a part of a very accepting Community. We all know the struggles mental illness presents to us… and yet we are Not confined to labels or diagnoses. We are Whole human beings. We have potential, we are worthy, we are valuable members of society.
Thank you for listening.