Choosing HOPE for 2022…

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By Anita Manley

I’m not going to kid you, this last wave of the “super-spreader” omicron variant of COVID has really been difficult. I’ve been struggling. I’m sure that many others are too, as we welcome the New Year with anticipation, anxiety, fear and every emotion in between.

I’ve started wearing a KN95 mask everywhere I go, since it has been said that the 3 layer cloth mask is not effective against omicron. My friend says, “all the stylish people are wearing them.” Folks are worried and want to stay safe. Yet, despite our best efforts, I know several people who have tested positive. Fortunately, they have all been vaccinated and several had also received their booster. As a result, they only had mild to moderate symptoms and avoided serious illness. Vaccines work! Trust the science. Go get vaccinated and get your booster as soon as you are eligible.

I’ve been listening to the radio as I’m driving around in my car, often joining in on the chorus. Songs with lyrics such as: “Everything’s gonna be alright” (No Woman No Cry by Bob Marley) and “And what it all comes down to my friends, yeah… Is that everything is just fine, fine, fine.” (Hand in My Pocket by Alanis Morissette) – and I hold onto the HOPE of these lyrics like a lifeline. I belt out these lyrics with all my heart and soul, and I begin to believe that everything will be fine, it will be alright. It always amazes me how music can do that… change your state of mind, and in this case, make me feel more hopeful than I was before the songs came on the radio.

So, I invite you to also choose HOPE for 2022, because we know that all pandemics do come to an end. We also have vaccines and science on our side. Despite the huge rise in cases, people (in Canada) have been staying out of the ICU and recovering in their homes after just a few days. There is lots to be grateful for, and hope lives on.

Wishing you all a safe, healthy and happy 2022! Choose HOPE!

When I look at this photo, I feel a glimmer of hope on the horizon for 2022.

Reflections on the past decade

By Anita Manley

For me, 2010 began being totally estranged from all my family and friends (including my two teen-aged daughters) and living in a women’s emergency homeless shelter. I was sad, lonely and angry that my life had turned out this way, not accepting the fact that it was untreated mental illness that set me along that path. At the age of 45, having lived a solid middle class lifestyle, up until the early 2000s and also having a university degree under my belt, I expected so much more from my life. I was angry with the people in my delusions whom I blamed vehemently for my lot in life. And I had been homeless since September 2008, so I was completely stuck at the beginning of the decade.

In 2011, however, I received life saving treatment from The Royal in Ottawa, and that changed the course of my life. Firstly, I was thrilled to be able to reconnect with my daughter, Julia, and my Mom and brother. In 2012, after being discharged from care as an inpatient, I returned to volunteer at The Royal in the Women’s Mental Health Program to help transform the lives of women, like me. I also joined the Client Empowerment Council, where I would remain a member for 5 years, acting as an advisor. Soon I started facilitating a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) group for women and then I co-developed and co-facilitated a writing group for women “Journaling as a Wellness Tool” which has received many positive reviews by past attendees. I still facilitate these groups to this day and have recently brought the Journaling group to the women of Cornerstone Housing for Women – Princeton.

2015 proved to be another life changing year for me. I celebrated my 50th birthday, met my wonderful partner, Ron, and was awarded The Royal’s Inspiration Award for the work I had done thus far on helping to reduce the stigma of mental illness through sharing my story with many audiences and the advisory work I had done. I also started to do some volunteer advisory work with Health Quality Ontario (HQO) in Toronto. In 2017, I was accepted as co-chair of the Champlain Local Health Integrated Network (LHIN) Patient and Family Advisory Committee (PFAC). where I would serve for 2 years. I also reconnected with important family members; my sister, Sally and her husband Tarryl and my birth Mom, Ann, and her husband, Harold. Then, Ron proposed to me on Christmas Eve and I said YES! We were married on the hottest day of the century, July 1st, 2018. Many family members and friends attended, including my birth Mom and her husband and my daughter, Julia, was Maid of Honour. Then, in early October, we traveled out to Vancouver Island (with the help of friends and family) to reconnect with my daughter, Nicola, and witness her marriage to Roy. It was a joyful occasion as you might imagine, since I had not seen, or heard from her in over 10 years! This was made even better because I had both of my daughters together with me in one place after many years of estrangement. Ron and I also fit in a 3 day honeymoon in Tofino, BC.

In 2019, I was named one of five FACES of Mental Illness by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health sponsored by Bell Let’s Talk. It has been an honour and a privilege to meet all the people involved with this campaign, especially the other four FACES. Totally amazing and inspiring people. Susan Blain also contacted me to be in a video series called “Sharing with Susan B“, where I shared my story of hope and recovery in a 10 minute video. I was also awarded The First 40 award for The Royal Foundation’s 40th Anniversary. What a complete surprise that was! I was completely gobsmacked that they chose me as one of 40 people who had made a difference in the past 40 years of the Foundation’s history. Then, Silken Laumann’s organization, @unsinkable contacted me to become a part of their family by sharing my story of overcoming obstacles to help inspire others. Although I have yet to submit my narrative, I feel very connected with the Unsinkable family already.

And to top off a decade full of positive changes and living a life in recovery, my eldest daughter, Nicola, called me for the very first time on New Years Eve and we chatted for half an hour. It really felt as though we had talked just last week, not a year and a half ago at her wedding! I brought in the new decade, sitting on my couch next to my husband, sipping wine while talking to Nicola and watching the fireworks explode over Lansdowne Park in Ottawa.

This year and decade is already off to a great start! I cannot wait to see what lies ahead.

Wishing you all a very happy New Year/New Decade with lots of love, happiness and good health.

Happy 2020!