Monday, July 15, 2013

Finding Strengths

It's been awhile since I posted, and after many requests, I decided this post would be somewhat of a follow-up from my last.  I was asked to speak at an employment luncheon a few weeks ago, and after standing up and sharing my story in front of a hundred and fifty people, I was met with applause and a very humbling standing ovation.  A number of people who follow my blog suggested I post my speech on my blog, so here it is.  I've omitted names and such,  for confidentiality reasons, but the rest of it is unchanged.  ENJOY!

Had I been asked two years ago to stand up before all of you, I would have been shaking my head “no” on purpose.  I've come a long way since then.  Almost four years ago, in the midst of a severe depressive "episode," and in the throes of an eating disorder I couldn't get a handle on, I decided to get myself help.  I was sick and tired of being sick and tired: Mentally, physically, and emotionally.  wasn't working, I had lost my housing, and I was beginning to lose friendships as I sunk deeper into what felt like an unending state of misery.  After nine weeks in the hospital, undergoing 18 shock therapy treatments and a multitude of medication changes, I walked out slightly less miserable, but with an uncontrollable head tremor. After spending all that time trying to “get better,” I walked out feeling like everything was out of control.  I had no answers as to when the tremor was going to stop, and I became overly self-conscious and panicked when I was out in public.  However, no matter how depressed and angry I was, I vowed to myself I was not going to go back to the hospital.
It took a year of seeing specialists and fighting for answers, but I finally got a diagnosis.  The tremor was caused by an adverse reaction to medication and doctors believe it will be permanent, however, I remain hopeful.  While the news that this was possibly going to be a lifelong condition upset me, in a way it was also a relief.  I finally had some answers, and some treatments, and it also meant I had a choice.  I could spend the rest of my life hating having a head tremor and stay miserable and depressed, or I could accept it and move on.  I chose the latter.
With that decision, I committed myself to having a life worth living.  I attended groups and therapy on a regular basis, and then decided I wanted to get back into the workforce. I began working with an employment specialist in early 2011 to find work that would best suit me.  In the past, I had held many different positions including working in Special Education, being a massage therapist and owning my own business, and managing a fitness center and bakery.  While I loved all of these jobs, I didn't feel like any of them were the right fit for me anymore.  My employment specialist and I researched opportunities that would fit my interests and current needs.  After taking career placement tests and many discussions, we realized that my creative side was begging to come out.  We narrowed down my options and started looking at broadcasting.  My employment specialist encouraged me to “dip my toes in” to the broadcasting world by using my writing talents, and suggested I start a blog.
I began writing my blog, “Shaken Not Stirred” two years ago.  It is made up of my experiences on my journey to recovery, with the focus being “having a life worth living, even when it gets shaken up.” Since starting it, I have gained over 4,000 visitors from over 30 countries. It was the popularity of the blog, and the feedback I received from fellow peers that led me to think that maybe broadcasting wasn't the career I was interested in after all.  With that decision, my employment specialist helped me get an internship as a peer mentor, and I was officially hired this April. As a peer mentor, I assist employment specialists at the local mental health facility, in supporting individuals who are attaining their goals towards employment.  I run a Job Club once a week and meet individually with consumers to support and encourage their recovery while they seek or maintain employment.  Two years ago, I never could have imagined I would be where I am today.  With the help and support of my family, friends, therapists, and employment specialist, I realized that perhaps the tremor was actually a blessing in disguise.  I have navigated through the dark, and I feel like my experience can help others who are struggling, to see the light.
What I have learned from this “journey towards employment,” is that even when we can’t see it, we all have strengths.  They may be strengths that we are born with, or strengths that we develop over time, or as a way to survive, but the bottom line is we all have strengths.  And those strengths, when nurtured and honed, become skills.  These are the skills that get us well, get us employed, keep us working, and keep us moving forward in life.  Find your strengths.  Embrace them. Focus on how you can get them to work to your benefit. And never, ever give up on your dreams.

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