Homeless Awareness – My Own Story

By Tina Turvey

I was not a stereotypical homeless person. I was 4-6 years old. I felt vulnerable and scared most of the time. I was terrified and my mother who was also homeless was abused in front of me. We were never safe. I never felt safe and secure, and these feelings are still carried over into adulthood. I can honestly say as an adult I feel more afraid of becoming homeless now than getting cancer. I am scared of being in trouble with the landlord and eviction most of all.

October 10th marks the international homeless awareness day. Anyone looking up the demographics of homeless people will find the stereotypes are not accurate. Many homeless people are children and adolescents. Many work but cannot afford a place to live–such as those working minimum wage. Most are homeless for short periods of time, less than 2 years. Not everyone who faces instability in housing does so because they are alcoholic or criminals. Many are veterans.

With so many people living paycheck to paycheck all that is needed is a job loss or a medical crisis to land in eviction court or a shelter. With evictions showing up on credit reports for 7 years, many landlords do not want to “risk” a troubled tenant. Many suffer from mental illness also–making life skills such as paying (such as paying bills on time) difficult. This has been compounded by the current covid crises.

I come from a very troubled young mom who was not financially stable with untreated mental illness. My stepfather was very abusive and did not want his wife to work. This led him and the rest of the family into homelessness. I do not remember much about being homeless. My earliest memories were of “couch surfing” and having beds made up for me on the floors of those willing to take us all in. I have a brother that was 1 year younger than I that suffered with me as a kid. My grandparents took us in for a time; (my brother and I sleeping on a hardwood living room floor and my mom and step dad sleeping in a tent in the backyard).

The happiest day of my young life was the purchase of a dilapidated mobile home trailer. I was glad at the age of 7 to have a bed. I will never forget my humble beginnings. Today there are efforts to provide transitional or housing programs but is not nearly enough. The waitlists are often months or years. There are things which can be done. I try to vote in my local elections on the basis of help for the homeless and affordable housing. I also try to advocate. When people ask “why don’t they just get a job?” I respond with “do you know any HR managers who would offer a living wage job to someone with inadequate interview clothes, or no address or good hygiene? If so you tell me–I will pass the info along.

World Trauma Day

By Kurt Stapleton

Trauma…It has several meanings and definitions for each one of us.

In the medical world, trauma is considered a physical injury. Traumatic events cause these physical injuries. These events include domestic violence, child abuse, natural disasters, and severe car accidents. There’s also mental trauma’s that include emotional abuse/psychological maltreatment. School violence, War/terrorism, racism, forced displacement, sexual abuse, and also those who may witness these abuses happening, experience trauma.

However you view trauma, it changes you forever and if you don’t address them they will cause even more harm. When I think of trauma I think of my childhood and the events I endured and never had the chance to cope/deal with. I was given no tools to address these and didn’t have anyone to confide in. The traumas I endured had a lasting impact on my life. Especially my mental health. I didn’t know how to deal with stressful events in a healthy manner. I didn’t know how to talk about my feelings or how to show them. I was filled with denial, fear, shame, guilt, hopelessness, irritability. My inability to handle these feelings and emotions left me feeling lost in this universe. I felt that my childhood was a very dark and lonely time. As I grew older, I felt even more hopeless until I discovered painkillers. This took me down the path of substance use disorder and slowly destroyed my life. After several years of substance abuse, I made some choices that landed me in prison. It was here that I had time to sit and think about what I had been doing with my life and where I wanted to be going. I worked with a consoler that opened my mind and helped me understand why I was abusing substances.  She taught me about traumas and feelings/emotions, how to cope with them. She asked me what happened to me that I had to numb myself. I slowly opened up to her about my childhood and she gave me some great exercises that helped me do the internal work to address those traumas. I had never done this before and it changed my life. Having the tools to effectively deal with traumas was vital. After working on those past traumas and healing from within, I no longer felt the need to use drugs and I was in control of my feelings and emotions. I had effectively addressed the traumas in a healthy manner. I encourage anyone who is struggling with traumas, to seek out help and learn how to address them. You can live a happy, healthy, emotionally stable life. Here are some links to learn more about trauma and ways to deal with it.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/trauma

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/trauma

https://www.verywellmind.com/ptsd-triggers-and-coping-strategies-2797557

World Mental Health Day

By Darby Gregersen

Fall is officially here, the leaves are starting to change, the seasonal drinks are making their annual debut, Halloween decorations are starting to pop up everywhere and people are starting to pull their warm weather clothes out of the back of their closet. Personally, I love this time of year and get so excited for Halloween and the crisp air. I know not everyone is with me on that but many are also starting to get swept up in the season’s excitement or for the upcoming holidays. There is a day in October though that isn’t as popular but most definitely is important, so I would like to take this opportunity to draw attention to and discuss it a bit. 

On Sunday, October 10th, it is World Mental Health Day, and I think it’s very important for everyone no matter who you are or where you come from, to stay conscious and on top of your mental health. Also to be conscious and supportive of other people and their mental health. 

You could be asking, why is mental health so important and what exactly is it, right? We are all familiar with the phrase “mental health” but don’t all have the same experiences with it. You might be more familiar with mental health because you struggle with it on your own or have a loved one who lives with a mental health disorder, but I want to clarify that mental health isn’t just the disorders. Mental health is our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, it is how we think, feel and act. It helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Just as it is important to take care of our physical health, our mental health is important to all people of all ages.

So what can we all do as individuals to take care of our own mental health? The answer is something I cannot give as it is different for everyone, but I like to refer to an acronym that I have learned along the way in my mental health journey, that simply lays out what each person should do each day to take care of themselves. SEEDS.

Socialization

Education
Exercise
Diet
Sleep 

Socialization can be difficult, especially since COVID-19 became a factor, but your socialization for the day doesn’t have to be some big event. You can take care of your social needs by just making sure that you talk to someone other than yourself each day, reach out to a friend or family member to chat for a little bit, sit at the coffee shop patio and people watch or attend a group of some kind (virtual or not). Having interactions and connections with other people is a vital pillar of our mental health, even if you aren’t feeling super social one day try your best to connect with someone even briefly. 

Looking at education your first thought may be, “I am not in school anymore, so what are you talking about?” and that was also my first thought the first time I was introduced to the acronym as well. Education doesn’t have to be school, the way I am talking about education here is any way you can put your brain to use and push it a little bit. It can be easy to fall into our routines or have a lazy day where all you want to do is something like watch TV or scroll social media, but try to make time in your routine to flex that brain a little bit. You can do this by reading an article you find interesting or a chapter of a book, doing a mental exercise like sudoku or a crossword puzzle. You can even flex your brain by helping someone else problem solve, heck if you’re reading this you’re already doing something to take care of this part of your mental health. You don’t need to go and master a new hobby or become an expert in something to have it be considered your daily education, just do something to get your brain pumping and active each day.

Exercise, the second “E” in the acronym, is also somewhat misleading. I know when many people think of exercise they imagine a whole grueling work out session, but that isn’t

what is being asked here. It is crucial to your mental health just to get your body moving each day and not to stay sedentary. The first thing I think of that many people could easily fit into their day is walking. As a general rule to stay on top of this for myself, I make sure that I take my dog on a 15 minute walk at least once every day. Not everyone has something like a dog to motivate them to get active but try to think about your day to day, where you could try to implement physical activity in your day? Maybe you could start by taking the stairs instead of the elevator/escalators at work or school, maybe you could take a short bike ride through your neighborhood at the end of the day, you could try picking up a casually active hobby like ultimate frisbee, you may not have a dog but maybe you live with someone you could go for a walk with during the day. If you did that, then you are tending to two of these things at once, socializing and exercise. Anything you can do to get that heart rate up a little bit for a portion of the day each day is enough to honor this part of your mental health.

Let’s talk about “diet”. I don’t want a single person to think they need to drastically change their eating habits or go on some specialized diet in order to meet this need. Diet here just refers to your literal diet, your eating habits. Making sure that you actually do eat enough throughout the day and that at least some of that food is nutritional is the key to this. It can be a lot of work to cook a healthy meal and we don’t always have time to do such, so I don’t want anyone to get down on themselves because they have to pop through the fast food line sometimes. It is okay, no one is perfect, but trying to choose a healthier option than fast food when you are able is a big thing you can do. Make sure you get some fruits and/or vegetables every day even if it’s just a snack. Another thing everyone can do is make sure you are drinking enough water; we don’t function at our best, can’t think as clearly and it is hard on our bodies when we do not have enough water. Something you can do is try to keep a water bottle around you throughout the day, set a reminder on your phone to hydrate every half hour, whatever you can do to make sure you are getting water in your system everyday makes a world of difference for your mental and physical well being. 

And now, for the last part of SEEDS, sleep. Getting enough sleep as well as getting quality sleep makes a world of difference to your mind and body. When we don’t get enough sleep our mood is affected, the ways in which we communicate with others gets gummed up, and it makes it harder to just stay on top of things in our day. It can’t be said enough how huge of an impact sleep makes on our mental health, and our sleep schedules can be an incredibly difficult thing to change when we have our habits set. So for this part I just want to share some facts and tips about sleep. We need 6-8 hours of sleep every night, and it can actually be unhealthy for us to get more than 9 hours of sleep every night, so it is very important to keep to a regular sleep schedule. Having a set time that you go to sleep and a set time to wake up every day helps form a solid base for our sleep hygiene. If you are thinking about your sleep habits now and are starting to think you may need to adjust how much sleep you’re getting or when you’re falling asleep/rising, it is important to keep in mind that our circadian rhythm can only move in 15 minute increments over the course of about 5 days. So if you decide to shift up your sleep schedule, be easy on yourself, it isn’t going to happen overnight- pun intended- but in all seriousness be patient with yourself and your body if you decide to adjust your sleep schedule, it will take time and effort but a well rested mind and body is worth it. Another thing to keep in mind for sleep is that our minds love association, our minds associatie certain activities/smells/behaviors with things the more we do them. So watching TV in bed, as comfy and fun as it can be, is actually making it harder for you to sleep because your brain isn’t associating the act of laying in bed with sleep, it is associating it with not sleeping and staying stimulated by the TV. So even once you turn the TV off your mind isn’t shut off for sleep.

This goes for any activity you do in bed (reading, writing, scrolling on your phone, etc.), nobody is perfect but trying to restrict your activities in bed to just sleep can make a world of difference in your sleep quality and ability to fall asleep. Also, sleeping in a colder room can improve your sleep quality and help combat insomnia episodes. Scientists link this to the fact that our body temperature naturally drops at night. It might be uncomfortable at first but keep that bedroom cool and let yourself warm up under your covers. It will take some time to adjust to the cold but your mind and body will thank you. My last sleep tip I would like to share is a pretty simple one, firstly, it helps not to have a clock facing you while you sleep as we can become so focused on the concept of time and how much is passing, that it keeps us awake. But my tip is that if you are laying in bed and find yourself unable to sleep after 20 minutes (using your mental clock), to get up out of bed and do something out of your bedroom for a couple of minutes, don’t do something that is going to wake you up more, but just getting out of bed and reentering your sleep space after a few minutes can be like a little reset to help you get to sleep. If you lay in bed relentlessly trying to get sleep for more than 20 minutes, your body just isn’t going to agree.

I know that this blog might feel like a lot to take in or might not have been what you were expecting but for World Mental Health Day, I really wanted to share ways that we all can take care of our own mental health. I did at the beginning say how important it is to be supportive and conscious of other people’s mental health but I didn’t really want to go too far that way because taking care of ourselves first is the only way we can truly take care of others. I do hope by reading this and learning more about how to care for your mental health, it also helps you help care for others’ mental health. Now my final thought and hope is that I am writing this because World Mental Health Day is coming up but our mental health is something we need to care about and be aware of every day of the year. It can feel like a lot especially when we aren’t doing well mentally, but I hope you can take with you “SEEDS” and utilize it to help you honor and care for your mental health.

Wife Appreciation Day

By Kurt Stapleton

I’m writing this blog about my wife because without her I am not here.

My wife and I met while I was deep in my substance use disorder and at a crossroads in my life. I was married and had 2 kids with my ex wife and I was not happy with where I was in life. Or where I was heading. I was on a road to destruction and stuck in high gear. When I met my wife (current) I knew she was the one I had been searching for and something about her just felt right.

We have had many ups and downs in our relationship and she has remained a rock for me since day 1. My wife is very strong willed, opinionated, intelligent, caring and independent. She was also the right person to come into my life at the right time. She offered me love, acceptance, and courage. Over the years our love and bond grew more intense each day. I learned that I can trust her with my darkest secrets and she wouldn’t judge me or turn her back on me. She loved me for who and what I am. And, in turn, I loved her unconditionally and she confided in me some of her darkest secrets as well. Together we worked as one. She helped me through my substance use disorder and supported me every step of the way. She was my peer support without knowing it.  I believe that without her coming into my life I would have turned to harder drugs and made even more terrible choices (even worse than the ones I had made already). 

After I was sentenced to prison I thought that was it, she’s going to leave me and I’ll have nothing. However, she proved me wrong and she continued to support me and show up when I needed her the most. I knew that I would spend the rest of my life making this up to her and I had something to prove to her. I had to prove to her that she didn’t make a mistake with me.  And that’s what I’m doing now. 

Today we are raising our son and living the life I had been dreaming of as a child. She has been the one to encourage me to do things I didn’t think I could do, offering me advice and letting me know when I need to check myself and attitude.  She is still supportive of me and my goals, she  inspires me to do and be better. Our love has never wavered.  

I see her being the mother that I wanted as a child and it inspires me to be the dad that I wanted as a child. She has helped me become the dad our son needs and I continue to work on this each day.

I consider myself lucky to have met her and that she stayed by my side through the darkest of my days. I appreciate my wife, because without her here I am not here.

Back to School

By Darby Gregersen 

No matter how old I get, the month of September always gives me a mental image of a brainy worm with a pencil and thoughts about school. Memories from school when I was younger, thoughts about my younger relatives going to classes, thoughts about where I wanted to be with school and where I am with school now. September just highlights school in my mind so I want to take the opportunity to talk about school, how different it is for each person, how important it can be and the different ways school can look. The easiest way for me to start is by sharing what school has looked like for me through my life. 

Ever since kindergarten, I always had a plan in my mind for what I wanted to do when I got older, and that was to be a veterinarian. I had it all mapped out in my 7 year old mind: elementary school, middle school, high school then college at UW. Admittedly at the age of 7, I just thought that everyone went to UW, like it was the natural chain of succession to go from the high school I went to, to the University of Madison. I grew older and learned that college doesn’t work like primary school, people need to apply to college and can apply to whatever college they would like. I learned that you don’t have to go right away as well, and that you can take a gap year, go later or whatever else fits your life. 

So by the age of probably 9 years old, I had it set in my mind that I would graduate high school, take a gap year to travel around the world, then come back and go to the University of Wisconsin Madison to be a Veterinarian. Those plans didn’t exactly play out as ambitious little-me anticipated, I am now 24 years old and haven’t done any schooling after receiving my HSED (High School Equivalency Diploma). I did not graduate high school then take a gap year to travel, I graduated with my diploma almost 2 years behind my class. My life, like many others, did not go according to plan, and that affected my school life. For me, going to school was a lifelong dream, and this wasn’t my dream outcome for my school life. It has taken me some time to learn and accept that as disappointed as I might be I didn’t reach this dream, it is okay, and I can try to work for a new dream with school. Most people’s lives don’t go according to plan, especially with school, so it is important that we can adapt and change our expectations and goals to better fit us as we grow into them. 

Now I am trying to do that, to adapt and change my expectations so I can have a new goal and hope for school. I am still learning about school too, people like my employment specialist at Chrysalis are helping me learn what my options are, and what exactly it would mean to get a degree in something. I say ‘something’ because right now I don’t know what I want to go to school for, I know I would like to go back and get my degree in something I am interested and invested in; another thing I am learning is okay, as stressful as it is not knowing sometimes. I do know that in the upcoming school semester, I am not quite ready to commit to a degree yet, but I do want to spend more time doing things that are personally fulfilling to me which is why I am taking a non-credit class which I didn’t really even know was a thing either, but knowing about professional and continuing education classes made me feel like I had much more opportunity to fulfill my school dreams. My employment specialist helped explain what they were and went through the Madison College non-credit class schedule with me. We talked about different options and interests I had while going through the classes to see if anything clicked with me. When I found something that did, she helped me get in touch with the school to enroll and now I can proudly say I am enrolled in a college course for this fall. And I still hope to enroll for more next year. 


It might not be what I always imagined for myself with school but I am proud of myself now for still following through on my goal and expanding my knowledge with a class this year. It might be “years later” than I wanted to go to school but this is the year I am doing it. I said at the beginning of this blog I wanted to talk about how different it is for each person, how important it can be and the different ways school can look; even though I didn’t go over each point in specifics, I hope sharing my experience with school highlighted all of them. It is never too late to go back to school and fulfil a dream, learn something new because later in life it sparked an interest or learn something new about something that we are already interested in. There are plenty or reasons a person might want to go back to school, and even though there are plenty of reasons you might be told not to and plenty of things in life that might have prevented you from going, I want to encourage and remind you that you can still go to school if that is what you would like to do. Don’t let people tell you otherwise, especially yourself. No matter who you are, it could be your time to ask yourself, is it time to go back to school?

9/11 the 20th Anniversary

By Tina Turvey

September 11, 2021 Marks the twentieth anniversary of the most traumatic events in American history–the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Towers and the pentagon. Two thousand nine-hundred and seventy-seven people were killed that day, along with 19 hijackers who committed murder-suicide and more than 6,000 people injured.

For those of us that were old enough to remember it we know where and when we first heard of the happenings of the most horrendous event in American history. At that time I was 21 years old living in a medium sized college town. That morning I was speaking to my priest; and before leaving my priest interjected–”have you heard about New York?” I did not really grasp what he was saying and quickly headed to the local coffee shop for a Latte.

Ordering my Latte I suddenly realized there was something terribly wrong. There was no music playing–just a blaring radio news channel and dead silence–even though the shop was full of patrons. The dead silence was so heavy a pin could be heard dropping in the midst of 50 customers.

After leaving I spent the rest of the day–and coming days–glued to my television. I had not seen anything so horrible. The only thing that I could compare it to was the Oklahoma City Bombing seven years prior–and that killed 168 people. The World Trade Towers attack was beyond what I could fathom. The papers showed people jumping to their deaths along with canine heros digging people out of the rubble. Months prior a friend of mine moved to Brooklyn and I still do not know if she lived or not.

New terms and concepts entered American life afterwards. Concepts such as “the war of terror”, “jihad”, “patriot act” and “Islamophobia” became everyday terms. The repercussions of terrorism were felt. I have seen more amputees since the war on terror began than ever before. New levels of PTSD are present and many people are scared of Muslims and hate crimes have increased.

The most profound consequences of 9/11 has been the political, religious, and social division in this country. There has been much debate on whose fault the attack was and what should the US and it’s military do in response. There has been less trust and conspiracy theories abound.

Many want the stress and resulting trauma just to go away. I for one am tired of the division this has caused. Hopefully healing can come that results in peace and a consensus on how to repair the damage done. Time heals all wounds I am told and hopefully this will be the case.

The Dane County Farmers Market is Back!

By Tina Turvey

Only one factor has been able in stopping the decades old tradition of the Madison Wisconsin–Capitol Square farmers market–the 2020 Covid-19 epidemic. Every April through October, the tradition  has carried on throughout my lifetime; enveloping every season that I can remember (the 1980’s through the present).

But a good thing can’t be stamped out. As of June 2021 the farmer’s and vendor’s are back at it come rain and shine. The proof is the big bag of dill-flavored cheese curds in my refrigerator–a product not readily available in a commercial grocery.

My earliest memory of the unique products sold at the market were honey sticks-from Wisconsin beekeepers, along with unique gourds and apple cider sold at harvest time. When I was a kid I loved painting those gourds (and pumpkins) in anticipation for Halloween and Thanksgiving. The government also has recognized the value of the products by making food-stamp (i.e. foodshare) dollars viable payment options; propagandizing the belief that fresh produce should be available to all–regardless of economic status. The produce at the market is also priced very modestly, making a market outing a very affordable experience.

I had missed the Singing Grandma’s and street musicians that frequent the market as well–bells, flutes and yes violins. My first time back at the market I  was a bit more tolerant of the special interest groups touting anything from politics, religion and veganism. There is definitely something for everyone at the farmer’s market!

This last month and a half of going to the market I realized I ought to be thankful for the market–I had not realized how special it was until it was gone for a season. It is a vital part of our mid-western heritage. Along with promoting small farms the market also promotes healthy living and healthy diets–something we all need. I think I will take the time to savor more of those Dill cheese curds.

Insight From a Loved One of a Chrysalis Client

By Darby Gregersen, Consumer Advisory Committee member

All of us need help and support throughout our lives, at different points and with different things. It is totally human, and one of the reasons it is so important to have a supportive circle of people in our lives to be there for us and vice versa. Realistically, for some things in life we might need different or additional help than what our loved ones are able to provide. Thankfully there are organizations like Chrysalis that can be there to help support us through specific processes and times in our lives. But what about those people in our inner circle? We can assist them in helping and supporting us by helping them understand what Chrysalis is and what they are doing for us. That is why I decided to ask my partner some questions related to Chrysalis and what they do. Hopefully sharing some of our experience can give others clarity around what and who Chrysalis is, and how to support the people who support you.

What is your understanding of what Chrysalis is and does?

“From my understanding, they help people that have mental and physical disabilities along with people with a criminal history find jobs that meet their needs or requirements. They provide people with opportunities to work with Chrysalis and their peers within the community. They also advocate on behalf of the person seeking employment.”

What is the CAC and how has it benefited Darby?

“People that take part in the Chrysalis program have the opportunity to be a part of the consumer advisory committee. This committee meets once a month to discuss changes and events that will affect everyone participating in the Chrysalis program. It gives people like Darby a chance to help her peers along with Chrysalis and give them a larger purpose in being with Chrysalis. In order to take part in the CAC you also are asked to take part in another one of their committees, such as the blog group that Darby is in. I know Darby loves to write so being in the blog group has been very fulfilling for her to write things she knows people in the community will read and possibly help by doing so.”

Are you aware of the Chrysalis Pops program and what it does?

“Yes! I drive Darby to the Feed Kitchen every Friday and see the joy on her face when I pick her up after her shift in her cute hairnet. I know Darby has been wanting to work for a long time and the COVID shut down really affected her chance at doing so, it has been amazing to see Chrysalis give her this chance to work with her peers at making delicious treats. Chrysalis Pops provides jobs for people like Darby, organically growing and harvesting the fruits and vegetables in the garden, working in the kitchen to make the popsicles, and finally selling the product at the Farmer’s Market and places like Whole Foods. The revenue is then used to help fund Chrysalis to continue its work within the community.”

In what ways have you learned how to best support someone with a disability?

“Be patient. It is important to know and understand that it is not your responsibility to try to fix everything for them, it is most important to just be there for them with love and support. Take the time to really listen to them and their struggles, know that you don’t always have to have the answers or say the right thing, sometimes all you need to do is listen and validate their feelings about their difficulties. If they ask for your help though, be there to help and make sure they know you are willing and able to help them in any way that you can. But also be honest with them about what and how you can help them. Help make sure that they are comfortable with asking you for help, because it can be difficult to ask for help.”

What suggestions do you have on how to take care of yourself when you love someone with a disability?

“Learn to be okay with asking for help yourself, because you can’t expect to help someone if you’re not getting the help you need as well. Take time for yourself as well and don’t take on their problems. By that I mean of course be there to help and support them but don’t mentally overwhelm yourself feeling that you need to solve the problem. Because not all problems can be solved and they usually aren’t solved within a day. Things take time so practice patience and always know that it is okay to ask for help yourself. Darby and Chrysalis have inspired me because I see first hand how difficult it can be living with a disability and asking for help, but when you do there are amazing programs out there like Chrysalis that can help you. I don’t need Chrysalis but I know that there are programs and people out there to help me with my needs, I just need to be able to ask for help. In short, take some time to do the things you love doing and ask for help when you need it.”

Surviving the Big Transition

By Andrew Lopez, CPS and Darby Gregersen

In the middle of the coronavirus crisis I remember actively thinking that I would be very excited for all this to be over and to get back to normal. In reality the situation is quite a bit more complicated. I didn’t anticipate a number of challenges including the ones created by my own mental health.

One of the big adjustments for me is socialization. I’d gotten used to (for over a year) spending time away from friends and connecting with people over the phone and video chat. Seeing people in person seemed a little difficult at first and took me a while to adjust. I still have to remind myself to engage more often with my friends as I have fallen out of the habit of connecting with them.my friends are adjusting as well and some of them have been really hesitant towards engaging in in person contact. It’s been a struggle though with trust and kindness we are being patient with one another and our needs. During the start of the virus crisis I had been seeing a therapist but this therapist had so many schedule problems and issues with the telehealth services that ended up dropping out of their caseload. I’ve been looking for new therapy services but it has been very difficult to find in-person services. I am deeply hoping that there will be a change in the mindset of some of these mental health clinics and being tolerant of in-person services especially for those who have been vaccinated.

Professionally there’s been some big changes as well. Going back to in person services has created a number of challenges. The first challenge is the schedule changes. For a year of doing telehealth services I didn’t have to travel or planned for the time to travel. Being away from home more often was an adjustment for me and my cat. At first it felt pretty strange to be away from the apartment for so long in getting used to seeing my peers in person. I feel like my schedule has been more inconsistent than it has been in the past and this has led to a great amount of anxiety. In addition there have been changes in my caseload that have thrown in a bit of chaos. I’m very fortunate that I have a lot of professional support from my supervisors and coworkers.it helps to know that my coworkers were also struggling to make the adjustments and this wasn’t a personality flaw on my part. It’s now been a few months since I started doing in person services again, and I still feel like I’m adjusting. I feel like it’s getting better as I go and I’ve been very appreciative of the patient’s my peers and coworkers have shown me.

To give you perspective outside of the Chrysalis staff Darby has provided a summary of her experience dealing with this great transition:

I want to start from March but I would like to include my experience from the start of the decade. At the beginning of 2020, I was very much already in a transition point, working on many long term goals I have had around socialization, relationships, working, taking care of my health and apartment. January and February I kept pushing through what I was working on and making progress. I was feeling confident about it all for the first time in probably years and felt the momentum as I was also finally getting support from different people and services I needed. Then, March came around and as we all know, that’s when things really started to change for most people. My birthday is the first week in March and a few days after my birthday, I went out for dinner with my mom and brother. I hadn’t heard a lot about the virus at this point, I was aware of it but couldn’t have guessed what was coming. While at dinner I found myself listening to my mom getting more serious on the topic of the virus, informing me UW would be shutting down it’s campus soon because of it. Then, within the next week, campuses were sending students home, non essential businesses were closing, the beltline went from bustling chaos to the same energy as a back road.

Within that same week before the shutdown, I met with my Chrysalis case worker for the first time. I was so excited to be getting started with this and on track back to being employed. But obviously, because of the situation with the pandemic, that isn’t quite what happened. I was honestly somewhat devastated. Anxiety and still setting in devastation around the pandemic aside, I was devastated about my own progress. I thought about how hard I had worked over the last near 4 years to get my life back on track and how draining and frustrating it has been trying to find the tools and resources. Here I was, starting to make that progress and feel like a person again, then the shutdown happened and put an indefinite halt, unpassable restrictions, and in some cases just a full stop around the assistance I had in achieving getting my life back.

Throughout the summer, this heartbreak thought storm came back to me often, as did the part of my brain trying to just survive the new situation in front of me. It broke me, my mental and physical health declined as I tried to adapt to the situation. I felt guilty for having all the feelings I did about my personal progress, the world was in shambles and everyone was struggling. Some struggling arguably more and thousands of people were actually dying. What right did I have to panic and cry over losing so much of my supports and resources, as so many were going through the same? And often lost in my head, I did forget that I do have the right to all my feelings. I was extra hard on myself asking why I couldn’t just “get through it” like everyone else. I will infer that I am not the only one that had this back and forth in their head between mourning their life pre-pandemic and being angry about it, and feeling guilty for having those feelings or just telling themselves to ‘buck up’ and face the new normal. Another thought scenario I know kept running through my head was anger and frustration with other people as I would watch the news, peek on social media platforms, hear it from people talking to me, but watching as some people went about their lives like nothing was happening. Positing pictures from parties to instagram and continuing to leave the house for frivolous things. Watching people do that was hard and made it harder in ways to accept what was happening as real; or the opposite that anger that people weren’t taking the situation seriously.

In sharing those feelings in this blog, I am hoping some of my words resonated with people who had those thoughts as well or gave a new perspective to someone. I would like to continue and end this with some of what I experienced in regards to one of my services and how it was affected by the pandemic.

As I mentioned earlier in my writing, the week of the shut down, I met with my Chrysalis caseworker in person for the first time and was going to start to dip my toes back in the employment waters. I have been unable to work for longer than I would like because of both mental health and medical struggles, and at that point I was starting to feel ready in my self and my schedule to reenter the workforce with some support. I was ecstatic to be starting to work with someone from Chrysalis and get this part of my life back on track. Though, since the shutdown happened things had to change with that a bit. We continued to meet through video meetings, we talked about me, accommodations I would need from an employer, what I want in a job, ideas for workplaces I would enjoy and all that good stuff that the case workers of Chrysalis help you with. If it wasn’t obvious in what I said before, I was super discouraged when the shutdown happened seemingly in sync with this step toward progress. Some months into talking to my case manager and the shutdown, I was no longer feeling safe to work again. As much as I long to work again, I had regressed in my own mental health and had grown anxious around the idea of looking for a job during the pandemic. As things started to open up again, with more non essential businesses opening back up, we talked about my comfortability applying to some jobs. I had to be honest with myself and with my caseworker that I no longer felt that I was in a place to work again especially with doctors starting to see people again in person. I had tons of medical appointments stacking up and reclaiming my schedule from me.

This was all super discouraging but we kept meeting, up until a certain point when I and my case manager agreed that it would be the best move to take a break from meeting with each other for a while until I felt ready to start looking into working again. This was hard for me but felt okay, it wasn’t an end, my case manager assured me that she was still there for me if I needed someone and would still be there for me when I was ready again. I wasn’t forced to give up working with someone from Chrysalis, which does not necessarily sound like much but really meant a lot to me with how much I did have to give up in the past years as well as during the pandemic. I still got to hold on to that feeling that I made progress in this area and wasn’t just back to square one with it.

Before we stopped our personal meetings, my case worker did give me some help and support by making me aware of Chrysalis’s consumer advisory committee. She thought it would be a good thing for me as I was in this place of knowing I couldn’t work a regular job, but dying for some sense of purpose and accomplishment somewhere. This committee fit the bill, it only required 2 hours of the month as a minimum, so within my capabilities at the time. I would also be paid to participate in the committee, along with one of their subcommittees, giving me a purpose and something that felt meaningful to fill some of my time with. Thankfully I was accepted into the committee and got a spot in the blog group sub committee, which is the reason you’re reading my words and I am able to share my experience with you. The committee has provided me with a sense of purpose and accomplishment as I finish my share for blog pieces and spend time (over zoom) with the other members of the committee.

Now here we are, a year later transitioning again with all new changes to navigate. Last year my birthday was celebrated on the end of “normal” in a restaurant; this year I was surprised with a trip to Burnie’s rock shop by my boyfriend- this year wearing a mask and following the store’s new capacity limits for social distancing. It was great to get out again and see other people and meander around a store as much as it was unsettling and near scary to do that again. Now we are nearing May and more changes like that are happening, with things opening back up, people getting their vaccinations and social gatherings tentatively being planned, it’s all cause for excitement as well as anxiety. I am sure many people are feeling similarly as they go about handling the changes in our nation, community, and in their individual lives.

I want to end this by saying, all feelings around these changes are okay, and it is okay to take them at your own pace, just remember: “To respect others comfortability around the changes, respect the guidelines in place that allow us to start safely transitioning into some normalcy, and always respect yourself and your pace in these changes.” – Darby Gregersen

Chrysalis Clubhouse: Rooted/Troy Garden Partnership

Hi! My name is Brent and I’m Shoua. We are Chrysalis Clubhouse colleagues. We are so happy to have this opportunity to share our Rooted-Troy Garden Partnership experience with you. 

What was the first day like for you? 

  • Brent: I haven’t been in a garden this year so the first day at Rooted felt tedious but enjoyable. He stepped on a piece of broken glass on his first day! That was quite an adventure! 
  • Shoua: I was so excited and anxious at the same time for my first shift at Rooted. I went there early and just waited anxiously in my car for the big tour from KZ!  I met up with Brent afterward and we spent our morning pulling GARLIC. It was so relaxing and much fun! 

What made you decide to come back?

  • Brent: I decided to continue to volunteer because it needed to be done. It’s very beneficial to the Clubhouse. 
  • Shoua: I like gardening. I believe gardening improves mood and can improve many aspects of our mental and health. Additionally, this partnership gives me a chance to represent Chrysalis and I’m grateful for that.?

What do you like about the garden most?

  • Brent: Harvesting. I love to harvest vegetables.
  • Shoua: The relationships. 

What tasks do you perform at the gardens?

  • So far we’ve done weeding, trellised tomatoes and harvesting. We harvested cabbages, garlic, green onions, and kohlrabi just to name a few. Brent is the only one that’s done planting. He planted herbs. 

Would you recommend Rooted Garden to other Colleagues and Why?

  • Brent: Yes, It helps you realize the work that goes into growing and harvesting the vegetables you buy in stores.
  • Shoua: I would recommend other colleagues to give Root a try. It’s a good way to build relationships in the community. And again, there are just so many benefits to gardening. It helps me to meet my goal of staying active and eating healthy. 

We hope to continue our partnership with Rooted for many seasons to come!