We All Have A Story – Giving A Voice To Someone With An Illness

This is the first in a series of blog posts from members of the newly-created LifeSpring Brand Ambassadors program. Staff members in this program will write about a topic they are passionate about relating to LifeSpring and/or mental health.

 

We All Have A Story – Giving A Voice To Someone With An Illness

 

I feel much honored to work with and assist clients that struggle with different aspects of life, mostly pertaining to some form of mental illness. This is my story as to what inspired and led to a groundbreaking project we have recently completed.

In my professional career, I have been fortunate enough to assist others in some form or another. Before that, I can remember being in high school, offering to give a great friend of mine with disabilities rides to and from sporting events so he could be the “team manager”. We developed a bond built on friendship and respect, and it came full circle when “Larry” expressed to me his desire to become Prom King our senior year. Since I was a class officer, I knew he would never become eligible for King since he didn’t attend certain events, etc., required to earn the crown. Rules are rules, and while I did completely understand why they were put into place, it really spoke volumes to a somewhat hidden message in our society – some folks will never have the same opportunities that others will.

The night of prom came along and before I knew it, I was crowned Prom King. I held the title for about 47secs…..enough for me to get up out of my seat, make my way to the front, have the crown placed on my head, and for me to grab the mic to announce I was handing over the crown to “Larry”. No one knew of my intentions ahead of time – I probably didn’t even know them until the moment arrived to be honest. I was thrilled personally for my achievements, but once that crown was place upon “Larry’s” head, I knew the real King had arrived. The student body cheered, “Larry” blushed, and he felt like a million bucks. He had his picture taken for the newspaper, he had a dance with the beautiful Queen, and afterwards, he came up to me with his broken sentences and offered me the crown back….he just wanted the title. Truthfully, he probably just wanted the chance to become King. That night he made it and the crown is stored away to this day with other high school keepsakes in my closet.

Fast forward to November of 2013. I began a new group at LifeSpring titled “The Storytellers”. I think my creative flare was itching to do something groundbreaking that pushed the envelope in our field of work. Up until this point, I had already produced over 150 student lead videos for my local school system. I had the knowledge and the talent to make it happen, but really never thought it was possible due to the strict client confidentiality rules that need to exist. I guess my stubborn self just kept pushing until it happened.

The Storytellers group is made up of roughly 6-8 clients who meet religiously twice weekly to use the art of self-expression to share their story in some form or another. The Storytellers have been very successful – we have published our own “in-house” Christmas book, created motivational posters for our building, designed and created over 90 bookmarks for a Louisville area elementary school, and recently, completed our first video project, “We All Have A Story…”.

While all of these projects sound fun, I was able to sneak in the development of social skills much needed for the clients of LifeSpring, into the mix – developing friendships, positive communication, coping skills, relaxation techniques, completion of tasks, etc. In turn, my clients have become more confident in themselves and their own abilities.

The motivation to start this group came from statements made by two of the founding and still attending members. Simply put, one states he “wished he had a chance to write and draw, but no one would ever give him the time of day” while the other client stated he was told in school that “there are two types of learners in the world, slow and fast. I was told I am a slow learner and could never do it”.

The Storytellers has given these clients an outlet to express their own voices.   We have created a Facebook page in which a client selects a ‘Daily Thought’ every morning I see him. We have developed our clients into leaders of our building and in our community. We are teaching social development skills needed to be successful in life. We are networking with others and slipping out of the places we hide because we were forced into these hidden corners of the world. We are working to provide a voice for individuals with mental illness and/or personal struggles.

The “We All Have A Story…” video project has provided the clients with a voice to educate the world about the struggles anyone in this great land may relate with. The feedback has been tremendous and each time one of the stories are viewed, another part of that given clients dream comes true. We, as a group, soak up the attention this project has given us while we begin our next project to be released in the coming months. It builds the confidence and the mission of the group. Each internet click is a “virtual crown” earned in our minds…

I want to publicly thank my bosses, Ellen Kelley and Dennis Crandell, for allowing me to use my creative juices to make this possible for our clients. I also want to give a shout out to my former co-leaders Robin Jordan, who is now in with our CFS department, and Danica Lott, who is working to continue her own educational goals, for all the help along the way. I am excited to now have one of our own LS Therapist, Kim Parish, join our weekly meetings to offer a more therapeutic understanding behind the mission of the projects. And of course none of this would ever matter if you the reader, and viewer, didn’t take the time to view our 8 part series titled “We All Have A Story…”.

Stay tuned, we are just getting started, and be sure to check out our presentation at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgz13_3hYvI&feature=youtu.be

 

Enjoy!

Steve Mahoney & ABS The Storytellers Group