Paul's Journey: In his own Words
I can remember the first time someone called me “Captain.” I laughed so hard it hurt. It was funny to me as I was quite young, at 27 years, to be captain of anything. My “yacht,” as I was instructed to call her, since she was forty feet long, was more than just a beautiful sailboat, she was the realization of years of hard work and patience.
I had traveled to the island of Trinidad previously and dreamed of buying a sailboat there to start a tourism and trade business in the Caribbean. After the purchase and restoration of my boat, it looked like that dream was coming true, but I was experiencing major depression and irritability mixed with moments of high energy. I was wondering why I felt so bad at a time that should have been filled with excitement and joy.
A year later, I set my sails for a new direction after attempting suicide and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. For the next eight years, I would head into the wind of a health care system and a society that misunderstands what it means to be a human being experiencing mental illness. For me, living with bipolar disorder meant battling periods of mania and depression, being in and out of mental hospitals, and often feeling stigmatized and isolated from society.
During my journey, I met some incredibly dedicated people and amazing organizations working to improve our quality of life. Two of those organizations are Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley and the International Center for Clubhouse Development (ICCD) which developed the Clubhouse model.
A Clubhouse is a local community center that offers people who have mental illness hope and opportunities to achieve their full potential. Much more than simply a program or a social service, a Clubhouse is most importantly a community of people who are working together to achieve a common goal.
I became a believer of the Clubhouse model after a visit to another Clubhouse. I had been so accustomed to seeing people fed pills while staring blankly at a TV screen that I wasn’t prepared for the change that happened the moment I walked through the front door. It was an empowered environment where members’ ideas were respected as staff collaborated and developed relationships with members instead of distancing themselves.
I was so inspired that I became one of the founding members of a working group to bring a Clubhouse to Dayton. It is has been over a month since Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley opened the Clubhouse and I’m excited to share with you that members have already painted our leased space at 1 Elizabeth Place and we’re on a path to become a certified Clubhouse. Current daily activities like cooking, cleaning, reviewing the standards, and purchasing furniture and equipment are all completed by members and staff in accordance with a proven model for recovery.
Will you support more people who are on their own journey towards independence? I hope you will say yes. Many participants are just beginning their journey, and need your help to be successful. Your generosity can provide life changing impacts to people with all kinds of disabilities including members of the Clubhouse.