It’s week two of my Monday themed posts on music, memories, and a third “M” word that I have yet to hear suggestions about (comment with your idea for the M theme!). Today I’m wrapping the memory idea around a request I’ve received to talk about my time spent at Homewood Health Centre in Guelph, Ontario.
I’ve been to Homewood three times. The first time I was eighteen and did their Integrated Mood and Anxiety Program (IMAP). I learned so much but didn’t put it into practice once I got home. After all, “self-care” does sound pretty cheesy, and it took me six long years before I could realize how much I needed to take an active role in my recovery. After doing the IMAP program for the second time in 2009 I was able to do so.
Going back to Homewood was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Shame and self-loathing had me as their prisoner, but I fought them to get my life back.
Homewood has huge waiting lists even if you can afford to pay out-of-pocket. If you live in Ontario, the waiting list is incredibly long for the province to cover your stay. If you live outside of Ontario, the wait list tends to be shorter overall. Whenever I called Homewood’s admitting department, all they could tell me was that I needed to wait “a few more months.” Then with only four day’s notice, they called and I had to drop everything to be admitted into their eight week program.
(Please note that the programs at Homewood have likely changed in small ways since I was there, but their overall attitudes and approaches towards wellness should remain the same.)
I was fucking terrified to be there but somehow I did it one day at a time. The Integrated Mood and Anxiety Program feels like a school about depression and anxiety. We received a packed schedule that outlined our tasks for each day: getting up, breakfast, a mandatory walk outside, then usually two groups before lunch. Then there were two groups after lunch before a five o’clock dinner, and most evening groups were optional. We had groups on Anxiety and Stress, Leisure and Lifestyle, Self-Esteem, Return to Function (ie. school and work life), and Spirituality, to just name a few.
Homewood works on the bio-psycho-social-spiritual framework, and so wellness is approached in all directions, in every way possible. This means that medication wasn’t the only focus, neither was psychotherapy. Both of those treatments were explored, but so was everything from exercising to goal setting to being social. And at Homewood they kindly guide you to practice what they preach. At the beginning of your stay you have to set goals for your time at Homewood and the staff there help you break down your goals into weekly pieces for you to work on. If you say you want to practice self-care, they ask you to specify what you are going to do to take care of yourself. I often said I would do some art or walk to the book store. At the end of the week there would be a small group where everyone would go over their goals and talk about whether they were able to do what they planned for that week.
I left the IMAP program with a practiced habit of doing things that make me feel good. I started doing art every day and seriously, doors of inspiration opened up into my life. I remember telling my parents and my friends that I suddenly understood how everyone else in the world can enjoy life. They do things that they enjoy! And even as I type that, it’s like UM, DUH in my head, but really, when a person is depressed, it’s SO hard to remember what feels good or why you should do those things.
I honestly can’t recommend Homewood enough if you are serious about getting better. In addition to helping me reach my goals and start enjoying life again, my time in the IMAP program connected me with people again. Up until then I was SO ashamed of my depression. I thought I was this giant freak and I hated myself so much for being in pain. But the greatest thing about Homewood is that you go through their programs alongside people just like you. The IMAP program had about 30 other patients in it with me, and so we all learned at the same pace. I no longer felt like a freak because I was surrounded with people who knew depression and pain and isolation. Everyone was on board to get better so we encouraged each other along the way.
New patients came every week and patients left every week as they began and ended their programs respectively. Once I’d been in the IMAP program for a few weeks, I started feeling very passionate about helping the new patients adjust to the hospital and feel welcomed and safe. I started to find my footing in helping people go where I’d been before. Within two years I was hired at mindyourmind and now I write a mental health blog.
So this concludes Part One of my talk on Homewood. Next time I will post about doing the Program for Traumatic Stress Recovery (PTSR) a year after I did the IMAP program. The program was similar but also different in many ways. IMAP opened the door to my recovery and PTSR helped me step through that door.