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Signposts on the Journey

Significant journeys rarely go as planned. There are twists and turns along the way, unexpected places and people we meet, or forks in the road where we have to make decisions. On these travels, it’s good to know where to turn for help and how to look for signposts that will guide us along the way. For several years, Pat has been on such a life’s journey, one he is navigating with success.

When we first shared Pat’s story, he was well into this journey and doing really well. He had successfully quit gambling, drinking, drugs, and cigarettes. He was back at school, upgrading his education with a goal towards university. He had stable housing and was in a new relationship. It was clear that Pat had overcome much – all this despite living with schizoaffective disorder. Today, Pat is even further along on his journey towards wellness. When he reflects on twenty years of learning and growing, he is grateful for the signposts he’s had along the way.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” he says.

Pat has met many of his goals: he’s now in university working towards his social services diploma. He has begun driving again. He continues to manage his addictive behaviours. Most importantly, his mental health has improved significantly.

“I’ve been ‘down-graded’ from schizoaffective disorder,” he explains. “My diagnosis now is bi-polar. I don’t need to take anti-psychosis medication anymore.”

He still lives with a measure of anxiety but he is learning to manage that. Having a strong support network makes a huge difference. Pat also credits his faith in God.

“God has done amazing things for me,” he says. “He’s put me on this path and keeps giving me the confidence and strength I need to keep going.”

Pat and Vicky share a coffee and conversation. Vicky is inspired by the confidence that Pat has gained along his journey.

Up until recently, Pat received support from Supported Independent Living (SIL), a service offered through Communitas Supportive Care Society. Vicky Manderson, who manages SIL, has witnessed his progress despite the challenges he’s faced.

“He doesn’t fear the setbacks of hard days as he once did but sees them for what they are – just a normal part of life,” she says. “He knows that at the end of the day, he will overcome and will eventually accomplish what it is that he’s set out to do.”

Vicky has known Pat for nearly a decade and is moved by his resilience. It is gratifying for her to see that he’s not only got an impressive support network but that he’s learned to ask for help when he needs it.

“I know it sounds cliché, but he’s not just surviving, he’s thriving. He’s not just getting by, he is full of hope and has built a beautiful life for himself, one that is full and marked with purpose.”

Pat is doing so well, that he initiated graduation from SIL so that another person can have his spot. It’s a positive signpost along Pat’s journey of wellness.

Another signpost is healthy relationships. While his support network includes health professionals, it also includes friends who understand him and will be honest with him. One of his most significant relationships is with Doris, the woman he had begun dating when we first chatted three years ago. Last summer, Pat and Doris were married and he says his wedding day was one of the best days of his life.

Pat and Doris on their wedding day

“I finally knew that I was with the person I wanted to be with forever,” he says. “She really is my soul-mate, she completes me. Doris accepts me as I am and that means everything.”

Today, Pat is moving forward with new goals. He’s doing well in school and hopes that he’ll be able to work towards his degree in counselling. He has begun a practicum with Communitas, supporting an individual living with developmental disabilities. His doctor and his case manager are confident that he will be able to go back to work within the year. This is one of Pat’s strongest desires: to be a contributing member of society again, to give back to his community. He is grateful that he’s got a chance to start that process with Communitas.

“I’m super nervous but also really excited,” he says with a smile. “I believe that I am doing what God has called me to do. I’m moving forward.”

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