Mike first came into contact with Men’s Mission many years ago. At that time in his life he was still very transient – picking up and moving without a moment’s notice. “At that time, I couldn’t tell you why I did it,” Mike explains about his constant moving, “but I would stay in a place for a little while; then just panic and feel the need to get out of town and go somewhere else.” The unexplainable urge was so strong that he had travelled cross-country approximately 14 times, having lived in each province about four or five times each.
Mike found himself in London during this transient period and needed somewhere to stay; he chose Men’s Mission.
It was at Men’s Mission where Mike found not only nutritious meals and safe, emergency shelter from the elements, but where he was finally able to sit and talk with someone face to face – someone who cared about his well-being and his future. Mike was grateful for those who worked at Men’s Mission, “I was treated like a person instead of just a number, and because of that I started volunteering in the kitchen.”
After volunteering in the kitchen during his stay in emergency shelter, Mike found an apartment; then, he moved from volunteering to become a member of the Men’s Mission kitchen staff. Everything was going well until his anxiety kicked in and he, again, felt the sudden urge to pack up and leave town.
Mike left London and headed to Oshawa. There he stayed for a few years; he worked odd jobs and once again, felt the urge to leave. On his way back to London, he stayed in Toronto at a shelter with a psychiatrist on site. The psychiatrist was available to speak to those staying in shelter at no cost to them; it was at this time that Mike finally felt ready to discuss his lifestyle, including his habit of escaping – of packing up his whole life and leaving everything else behind.
Mike reflects, “I was just tired of moving all the time; I wanted to figure out what was going on inside my head.” He had about three sessions with the psychiatrist before he was given a diagnosis. Mike was suffering from anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). It was these concurrent mental health issues that were keeping him from finding stability in his life.
“Once I found out,” Mike continues, “I felt a huge sense of relief. It was a little difficult to deal with the news for a little while, but knowing what was going on helped me work through those thoughts of needing to pack up and go.”
So when Mike came back to London, he stayed at the Men’s Mission emergency shelter once again; he volunteered in the kitchen as he tried to find an apartment and a job. His ultimate goal, however, was to rejoin former colleagues as an employee in the Men’s Mission kitchen. “The environment is just so supportive; I know almost everyone who works there, and it’s a good job.”
Debrann, the Men’s Mission Food Services Supervisor, also wished to give Mike another chance to work in the kitchen; she pleaded his case and believed that he would be a dependable, hard worker given his active efforts toward improved mental health.
After many years of travelling, of staying in shelters, motels, rooming houses, and finding temporary work through temp agencies, Mike finally feels a sense of stability. “Everything is good. I am glad I finally talked to someone after years of not having the courage to talk about what I was going through. I have a good job, an apartment, and supportive people on my side. Whenever I start to feel anxiety, I know I can talk to Debrann, or Men’s Mission case workers – Melinda or Mary. It’s good to just have someone to talk to.”
The attitude at Men’s Mission makes all the difference. “Nobody labels you here,” Mike notes, “there’s no judgement; there’s just support. Everyone I work with has the attitude that I have something and I’m working through it. I’m just happy I finally know what was going on in my head so I can work on creating a good life for myself.”
Written by Rachel Ganzewinkel, Communications & PR Coordinator