Kathleen was on her journey to recovery when she connected with MHALA’s Discovery Resource Center, a peer-run facility in the Antelope Valley.
“I have been in counseling since my early 30s,” says Kathleen, who is now in her 50s. “I had a lot of problems dealing with things and with unhealthy relationships. It broke my self-esteem so badly that after a while I couldn’t even function. I thought I was a horrible person who didn’t deserve love. I didn’t deserve to win. I suffer from really bad anxiety and had a few mental breakdowns. For a long time, I couldn’t even open up.”
She had also struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol but has been sober for years. “That was a big part of my healing process.”
In 2019, looking for some connection, she began to visit the Discovery Resource Center. She started out slowly, joining a few peer-advocate groups, and began to open up.
“MHALA took a lot of time with me,” says Kathleen. “Everyone always treated me with a smile. They would have me interact with groups a lot. They always encouraged me to try things and praised me for what I had accomplished.”
“Everyone who works at the Discovery Resource Center has gone through the mental health system or had a family member who has gone through it, and thus has a bird’s eye view of the difficulties that individuals with mental health issues struggle with — not only personally but also in getting the help they need,” says Program Manager Cynthia Perez. “We offer one-on-one peer support, link individuals to any resources they may need, advocate for them when those resources are being blocked or are difficult to obtain, and offer support through many groups. We do what needs to be done to help the individuals that walk through our door.”
Kathleen began to connect with other members, getting them to go out, exercise, and join in other activities that would contribute to improved mental health. Some peer advocates told Kathleen that she should run some groups because she was “very good with people.”
“I was scared. I didn’t want to,” she explains. “Finally, I started thinking, ‘This might be a good thing for me because it’s the only place where I really feel safe — with people like me around me who can understand what I’m really going through.’”
Kathleen asked if she could start facilitating groups. The group she now leads is called “Art and Soul” and focuses on self-care.
“We focus on calming techniques for anxiety and depression. Sometimes we ask people if they want to share their art or anything that they do creatively for self-expression, says Kathleen, MHALA’s 2021 Chimbole Champion — an individual who, through their own recovery, demonstrates great leadership and becomes a role model to others. “We try to give them some positive feedback — and if they want advice, it’s always positive. We provide a safe a safe environment for them; they know that I’m a peer and that I’m dealing with things, too. We’re just there for each other.
“I’m never going to stop going to groups.”
The Discovery Resource Center’s online groups are open to everyone. To see this month’s schedule, visit MHALA’s Community Calendars page.