Last week, Patrick Whalen, a member from our Crossroads Clubhouse shared this speech with me which he wrote to present at the State House. He did such a great job, today, he is presenting it in front of the Joint Commission on Mental Health and Substance Abuse. I was touched by his story and courage. My thanks to Patrick for allowing me to post this.
~Scott M. Bock; President/CEO
I’d like to start off by introducing myself. My name is Patrick Whalen and I am twenty one years old. I’ve been active in my recovery from bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorder and substance abuse since June of 2011 and have made a significant amount of progress since then. My history has been very dark, chaotic and despairing for as far back as I can recall. I was born into an abusive family life fueled by both my parents’ involvement with substances and my mother’s untreated mental illness. I was cared for by my older brother, Sean, for the majority of my childhood as we both struggled to cope with our troubles. I grew up without diagnosis and without guidance. In a fit of depression, I dropped out of school at the age of sixteen and began to isolate myself. I lost my interest in life and thought things couldn’t get any worse. At this point, my brother and I were heavily consuming alcohol to self-medicate. In 2009, my brother’s life was ended at the age of twenty three, being the passenger in the car of an intoxicated driver. I immediately turned to substances much worse than alcohol. I spent the next year trying to distract myself from reality and my feelings for I felt that even a slight glance at either would crush me. Around the one year anniversary of Sean’s death, all the feelings I tried to keep quiet had grown to a roar. I became furiously manic to the point of psychosis and was hospitalized. I was then, at the age of eighteen, diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I began taking medication and started seeing a very wonderful therapist who has played in a vital role in my wellness today. I hadn’t sobered up yet and again was hospitalized around the second anniversary of Sean’s death. My second majorly manic psychotic episode is where my sobriety began, after detoxing in the psychiatric ward. My therapist referred me to Crossroads Clubhouse for additional support. I was desperate to escape isolation and embraced the opportunity. I was welcomed to Crossroads with open arms and for the first time began to feel authentic connections with others. I began to attend Dual Recovery Anonymous, a twelve step fellowship designed for people diagnosed with both mental illness and a co-occurring substance abuse issue. I believe this fellowship is the reason I am sober today, as I am three days shy of twenty one month’s sober, having two years of sobriety in June of this year. Crossroads has presented me with opportunities to build confidence and leadership skills which have led me to be more independent and grasp an unwavering drive to succeed. With their assistance, I have attained my GED and have become interested in going to college to study psychology. I am living in my own apartment. I participate in various forms of peer support. I have attained a job at Home Goods through their Transitional Employment program and couldn’t be happier about it. I’ve noticed that employment has improved the quality of my life substantially. Interacting with customers is always a positive experience as they’re very kind and I am kind to them in return. I used to be socially anxious to the extent that it was emotionally crippling and I feel my work has cured that as I am now able to interact with people with the utmost confidence. I used to dwell in a preconceived notion that I should fear the world but have found that’s the furthest thing from the truth. The productivity side of working hard is endlessly a rewarding feeling that outweighs the stress involved. The way I perform at work is a pleasant reflection of my ability to learn, to be efficient and to be determined. I feel as though I would not have seen these qualities in myself if it weren’t for being presented with the opportunity to be productive. Now that I’ve proven to myself that I possess these qualities, I can whole heartedly apply them to my future goals and every other area of my life. I believe this is why employment holds such importance in the eyes of mental health services. We don’t want to just tell people about their potential, we want them to experience their potential. I believe growth has no end and that we are capable of exceeding what we perceive to be our full potential. We can go above and beyond. Being a part of this community of recovery has turned my life around and I now believe in happiness even in the absence of a cure for my illness. Our struggles make us stronger and in turn make it possible for us to help others who are struggling. I have faced hardships in my recovery that my community has helped me get through without being derailed. My mother passed away unexpectedly in January of 2012 and my friends at Crossroads were there for me. I didn’t even once think about picking up a drug. Summer of 2012, my eating disorder kicked into high gear and I starved myself from 195 pounds to 130 pounds. Their love for me has helped me love myself enough to start eating healthy again and I haven’t lost any weight for the last three or four months. All the support I have received or will receive will be returned. I am passionate about supporting those who have supported me. I am not the only one who has thrived as a result of support. It is crucial that our services are adequately nourished for they are a source of miracles that enrich this world every day. It is tragic for such purity to be drained as the result of a monetary drought. Improving the quality of a person’s life is priceless. I will never stop moving forward and that serves as evidence of these services successes. They are worth it. We are all worth it.