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My Story: Terry

Everyone at St. Jude’s has a story, and each person is unique. This is my story. I was born in Hong Kong in 1958. There were six children in my family, and I was the second youngest. My father worked as a carpenter. My mother brought up the children, and when we moved to Canada, she worked as a seamstress. I was nine when the whole family moved to Canada, in 1967. Nothing out of the ordinary happened in my childhood. My brothers and sisters now do all kinds of jobs. From 1983 to 1985, I studied graphic design at George Brown College. I then worked as a fashion illustrator until 1988. From 1989 till 1993, I worked in desktop publishing.

I have no recollection of the next 12 years after this. However, sometime in 2005 I woke up in the morning at a hospital with amnesia, remembering only my name. I then spent the next four months in the hospital. I also spent a year in a nursing home, where I was required to stay. I moved to three boarding houses in the following year. They were all unsuitable for me. By this time, my schizophrenia symptoms started surfacing again. I could identify the symptoms and I started seeking help. This was in 2007. I finally accepted the fact that I had schizophrenia.

I then checked myself into the hospital so my medication could be switched to Clozapine, and monitored at the same time. This time, I was hospitalized for three to four weeks. After this second hospitalization, I moved to a supportive housing residence called Manse Road, in Scarborough. I stayed there almost a year, and in December 2007 I moved to the Milan building of St. Jude’s.

My goal for the next two years is to determine whether or not I can be retrained and return to work in the field of desktop publishing. I am a patient person and I like people. I like socializing and I love having my own apartment. A lot of people have helped me along the way. My religion (Catholic) has also helped, and I have a good psychiatrist whom I have seen for two to three years. He is monitoring me since putting me on a new medication 1 ½ years ago. He is very supportive. I have moved many times because of my illness. It seems like you never get over mental illness. It is a great relief to know that my housing is permanent. I can now plan for the future, concentrating on my recovery, and can start planning around my illness. I call myself a positive person and I am outgoing. I like attending various activities at St. Jude’s. I am at a very important stage in my life. I look forward to the future. Thank you for the opportunity to tell my story.

My Story: Sean

Before I first got sick I was working at Tasty Chip and Steak Products in 1988. This was a food processing plant and I had been working there for about a year. When I first got sick I had delusions and hallucinations. This was a very frustrating and scary time for me. Things got so bad I attempted suicide several times and I lost my job.

At this time I had my own bachelor apartment. Three months after loosing my job my money ran out and I lost my apartment. I went to the Salvation Army on Sherburne Street and they told me about all the shelters and drop-in centers. I ended up staying at the Dixon Shelter downtown. I slept on a mattress on the floor each night and stayed there for five years. I ate at a number of drop-ins like the Scott Mission and the Good Shepherd each day. While staying at Dixon Shelter I started seeing Dr. Robert Heyding who helped me a lot. I took medication on and off at this time. During this time I was beaten up a number of times - mostly for my smokes and for whatever money I had and for my prescription.

After staying at Dixon Shelter for five years I decided to move out and stay on the street. This was my home for the next eight years. I continued to see Dr. Heyding during this entire time. My medication helped a little but I continued to be very sick. I got so paranoid and tired of being sick I decided to jump in front of a moving vehicle at the end of the eight years. The staff at Dixon Hall found me unconscious on the side of the street and called an ambulance. I was taken to St. Michael’s Hospital and stayed there for three weeks. During this time I was first told that I had schizophrenia. The day I was discharged from St. Mike’s I was assigned a case manager. I moved back to Dixon Shelter. The next day Robert Giddings from COTA came to visit me, took me to the HOP drop-in, and with his help I ended up in my first group home in 1996. I stayed there for six months but decided to move because all the other residents were elderly. Then I moved to Pembroke Street. I was on welfare at the time and paid $475 of my $500 I got each month for rent. I lived at the house on Pembroke Street for the next four years.

In early 1998 I first heard of St. Jude’s. I spoke to my case manager and soon after came for a tour. My first impressions were good and I applied to move in shortly afterwards. Two years later Angela Shaw called and told me there was a vacancy. I moved in on March 1, 2000 and have been in my own apartment ever since. My apartment has become my home. I’m glad things worked out the way they did. I had applied for housing with City Homes in 1999 and was accepted but was put on a waiting list with 30,000 other people. At that time they told me I would probably have to wait for another 4 years for my own apartment. When I first moved to live on the streets I lost contact with my family. After I moved to Pembroke Street the Red Cross found out my sister was living in London, Ontario. They helped me phone here. In 1997 I went to visit her there for the first time. They have since moved to Scarborough and I have regular contact with them.

Through all I have been through I have learned a lot about street life, that I should never give up, how important it is to take medication, and just how very important having a good home is.

My Story: John

My story started in the small town of Elkhorn, Manitoba where I spent the first years of my life. I was actually born in Brandon - about 100 miles away - because there was no hospital in Elkhorn. My father was the town doctor in Elkhorn. When I was 3 we moved to Ireland for one year and then back to Neepawa, Manitoba, and lived there until we moved to Orangeville, Ontario the year I turned 7. We lived there through my teenage years.

Looking back, I now realize that it was during my later years of high school when I first began to get sick. I thought I had told people things and later found out I hadn’t. I imagined things about myself that weren’t true. I could hear music that no one else could. I would become convinced I had done something terrible even though I hadn’t. My father listened and did everything he could to try and help.

In September, 1981 I had my first major breakdown. My father was able to arrange for me to stay in a hospital in Guelph. I was there for six weeks, and this was the first time that I began to take medication for my illness.

When I went home I enrolled in the Toronto Learning Centre and commuted back and forth each day between Orangeville and Toronto. Although this sounds like a lot of travelling, I really believe the routine helped me (at least for a while). That November I was taken off my medication, but found over time that I could not concentrate. In February, 1982 I began to see a psychiatrist at Sunnybrook Hospital and was put back on medication. I moved to Dufferin Residence that year as well, and this helped me to learn how to live independently. Unfortunately, in those days you were only able to live there for one year at a time, and my stay there was too short.

In 1984 I started the Day Treatment Program at Toronto East General Hospital and lived in several of their houses. In 1985 I joined Progress Place and worked in their Transitional Employment Program as a caretaker and as a bus boy in a number of cafeterias. I enjoyed working and it was good for me. Over the following years, I lived in housing with Madison Avenue Housing and Support Services for 8 years, Wilkinson Housing for 6 years, and Bayview Housing for 3 years. I moved to St. Jude’s in December, 2005.

Over the years I have attended the Redirection Through Education (RTE) and For You programs, and worked as a cleaner at Fresh Start. I am currently working at the Canadian Red Cross as a cleaner one night each week. I am doing this job through the Canadian Mental Health Association’s employment program. My job is helping me maintain a routine, earn some money, and helps me feel good about myself. It also gives me a chance to give back to society. So many people have helped me, and this is a small way to give something back.

In my spare time, I like to read books on history, politics and religion, go for walks, and attend church as an expression of my faith. Doing these things helps me cope successfully with life, gets me through tough times, and brings meaning to my life. I think everyone should find some things they enjoy doing, and make sure they become a regular part of their lives.

What have I learned about housing? People need to feel respected where they live. Everyone should practice the Golden Rule - do to others what you want others to do to you. Community is very important - make friends and be a friend to the people you live with. When you choose to go through life this way, things always seem to work out better.

What have I learned about living with my illness? I can’t tell you what to do but I know what works for me. I have to take my meds, work as a team member with my doctor, keep a healthy routine, and always be hopeful about the future. Although it may not always seem that way, I believe there are lots of good things waiting for me in the future.

Looking back over my story, I have had a long - and at times difficult – journey. However, I have overcome a lot, made good friends, found people who have helped me and I’ve been able to help others. I also know that I have a home I love and enjoy at St. Jude’s. I look forward to the years ahead. Life is good.

My Story: Mark

I was born in Parry Sound, Ontario and grew up in Scarborough. On my 10th birthday my family moved to Walter’s Falls in northern Ontario. Walter’s Falls is a small country village of 150 people - it was friendly, had a couple of churches, and everyone knew each other. It was a great place to be when you are 10 as there was always something to do - hiking, fishing, hunting, and swimming.

I lived in Walter’s Falls until I finished high school. At the age of 19 I left to go to the University of Waterloo to study computer science. At that time computers were still new. I worked hard but didn’t complete my first year. I believe this was the time I first started to become ill but didn’t know it. I started to withdraw from others, quit my job, and started to hitchhike around Ontario.

After awhile I went home to stay with my parents. One day while I was at home I had a disagreement with my father. I went to one of the local churches and started yelling out loud and calling for help. The pastor at the church found me, realized that I was ill, and arranged for me to go to the hospital in Owen Sound. I stayed there for many months and can remember feeling sad and confused. Things just seemed to be getting worse and worse. I started to take medication then - which I have been taking ever since - and after several months went home.

After a short time at home I decided to hitchhike across Canada. I got as far as Calgary when the police found me late one night standing on top of a snow bank. They were helpful and took me to the hospital. The doctor spoke with me there, realized I was hungry and got me something to eat, and made sure I got some more medication. I was in the hospital for two months and went back home to stay with my parents for a short time. Then I came to Toronto to live with my grandmother and aunt.

Soon afterwards my aunt took me to see someone at the Clarke. I was admitted for a couple of months. During this time Dr. Robert Woodhill was very good to me. I soon was able to get a job at the United Appeal in the accounting department and also worked at several other accounting jobs over the next few years. Following this I worked at the Mitchell Family Bookstore for twenty years. Over this time I attended the Salvation Army where I played in the band (trombone) and sang in the choir. Throughout these years I continued to live with my grandmother and aunt, then with a friend from my church, and finally in my own apartment. I came to live at St. Jude’s in 1997 through the help of my COTA worker.

Throughout all that I have been through my religious faith has been the most important part of my life. It has helped me to remain hopeful and strong even when everything seemed to be going wrong. I have also found going to Our Place and Progress Place drop-ins very beneficial and have great respect for both. The best advice I can give is to ‘go to bed thankful and wakeup trusting each day.’ If we do this - as my life has proven - we can overcome whatever obstacles we find ourselves facing in life.


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