Personal Stories

Photo by Barry Shainbaum.

Karen Liberman

On Tuesday morning August 27 1997, I awoke at 10:37 am on the psychiatric ward in Sunnybrook Hospital and I was well. After fifteen years of indescribable emotional, cognitive, and physical pain, I was well. After six psychiatrists, seventeen hospital stays, twenty-seven different medications, twenty-four electro-convulsive therapy treatments, countless amounts of psycho-therapy, I was well. Having experienced spontaneous remission after one dose of a new medication (that I would continue with for the next twelve years), I was well. I walked out of the hospital at noon on that day, never to look back. I was well.

Ironically, during those terrible fifteen years when I suffered from severe, treatment resistant clinical depression, I had never even heard about the Mood Disorders Association. Hmmmmm. In the depths of my pain and despair, I never even thought about joining anything (I spent most of that time in bed, in hospital, in pain, in anguish). I also had been thoroughly acculturated to rely on the medical profession almost exclusively to make me better. And since that wasn’t working, how could some kind of “support” group in the community possibly help? I was clearly too far gone. Obviously, nothing “soft” like peer support or recovery education would fix me.

I only became aware of MOOD DISORDERS ASSOCIATION once I began to recover from my illness. As part of my karmic-debt repayment plan (as a way of saying thank you to the cosmos) for finally becoming well, I was asked to speak, to tell my story. At first, I spoke at some day treatment programs, then at a MOOD DISORDERS ASSOCIATION conference in Orillia. That opened the flood gates. One speaking engagement led to another, speaking engagements led to volunteerism, volunteering led to a position on the MOOD DISORDERS ASSOCIATION Board, then the presidency, and finally, becoming Executive Director of this extraordinary organization. It was as if I’d been a long, dark journey my whole professional life to come home to this place. And what a place it is. Each day I have the privilege of bearing witness to the journey of hundreds of individuals and families who are climbing and sometimes crawling their way back from the darkness into the light. I am surrounded by the most wonderful dedicated, passionate volunteers and staff members in this sector. I am privileged to meet the most courageous, resilient, powerful, fellow travellers on this, our shared journey, to hope, healing, and recovery.

That is the gift of my life and my life’s work. You see, for me, hope, healing and recovery are not individual attainments or life states. Like the best meal or song or spectacular view, these are most profoundly felt when shared with others. I will forever thank MOOD DISORDERS ASSOCIATION for allowing me to share this finest of all gifts.