17 Aug Member Spotlight: Lori M.
A path to purpose and happiness
When Lori “Mish” Megow celebrated her 11th anniversary Vail Place member this year, her life felt more stable and full of purpose than it had throughout the two-decade span of her career in finance. In spite of struggling with severe anxiety and depression since her teen years, Lori had worked her way through college and remained employed in her field, although she bounced from job to job as her anxiety worsened. Eventually, her symptoms forced her to quit.
Lori first looked into volunteering with Vail Place at the suggestion of another member she met through a dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) class. After Lori met with Vail Place staff, they suggested she consider becoming a member due to her own struggles with mental illness. At the time, Lori didn’t see her mental illness as “serious enough” to become a member. However, the consequences were there. Because people didn’t fully understand what was going on in Lori’s life, she lost many of her friends after experiencing a major breakdown. Although she was under the impression that she was merely on a leave of absence, she had, in fact, been let go from her job.
A reluctant commitment
When Lori first joined Vail Uptown, she wasn’t sure she could continue. “I was just coming off a 20-year career, and I perceived myself as being functional during that time. In hindsight, I wasn’t functional at all,” Lori reflects. “I remember going to the Clubhouse and, after just a couple of days, coming home and telling my husband this wasn’t the place for me. I felt I didn’t belong there.” However, her husband’s encouragement helped her stick with it. Now, she’s very glad she did.
Lori bravely made a promise to her husband to attend Vail Uptown regularly for at least three months, and the benefits started to become much more obvious. As she became acquainted with other Vail Place members and learned about opportunities within the Clubhouse, Lori says her life began turning around. “It gave me a sense of purpose. That got me up and dressed each morning. I would wear some casual work clothes, and it gave me a place to go. I eventually made friends. I could transfer my skills,” she said.
Achieving rehabilitation through work
In fact, Lori’s background in finance has been invaluable to the organization. Today, she performs tasks like doing data entry and expense tracking as part of what is known as a work-ordered day, in which members help run various aspects of the Clubhouse. “Work is rehabilitative. If your mind is busy on something, you’re less likely to ruminate on problems. It has actually helped me with the fact that I’m no longer working and I’m on disability,” she shared. “My feeling ten years ago was that I had lost so much, but really, I was in the process of gaining back my self-worth, and my pride.”
Lori is now very active in many facets of Vail Place. She serves on the Uptown Minneapolis Advisory Council, along with three other members and three people from the outside community. The council hosts tables at events to promote Vail Place and helps coordinate fundraising events. She is also a representative on the Uptown Association Community Relations Council, which gives her the opportunity to help the organization put a face to the Vail Place name. Additionally, Lori was appointed to the Clubhouse International Faculty, which is part of a Clubhouse accreditation system that involves two-person, trained Faculty teams from Accredited Clubhouses.
Travels and teachings
Lori completed her training in March and recently traveled to the Fort Myers Hope Clubhouse in Florida. With a staff member teammate from the Salt Lake City Alliance Clubhouse, she reviewed the Hope Clubhouse based on 37 established standards. She says the approach is consistent regardless of location and that the Hope Clubhouse did things just like the Vail Uptown Clubhouse, despite being a smaller facility. In addition to her evaluation duties on these visits, Lori looks for opportunities to learn from other Clubhouses and improve Vail Place. She said, “No matter what Clubhouse I go to, I’ll look for something to bring that we could do better.”
These days, Lori feels she is doing meaningful work and making positive contributions to her community. She encourages other people to consider joining the Clubhouse, pointing out that any perceived barriers to success or skepticism can be overcome. “I worked from the ground up to this,” she says. “Anyone can do it.” Lori looks forward to traveling to Norway at the end of September for the International Clubhouse Seminar, a trip that will be funded through her own efforts and those of friends. Check out Lori’s gofundme page here to learn more.