By Nikki Jhutti
He’s a familiar face in the halls of Providence Care Hospital.
As a volunteer, Steve Myers helps out at the welcome desk, in the café and he even gives guided tours of the hospital.
If someone is in need, the 54-year-old is the type of man to lend a helping hand.
But eight years ago, he was the one in need.
In March 2011, Myers seemingly had it all; a loving wife and family, and a great job as a restaurant manager.
But that didn’t stop depression from creeping in.
“Things were going really, really good, but I was afraid I couldn’t keep exceeding,” recalls Myers. “I didn’t want my family or employees to see me fail.”
Myers decided he would take his own life.
“I woke up one morning, waited for my wife to go to work and my sons to go to school, and I decided I was going to get out while the going was good.”
Myers was unsuccessful, but that didn’t stop him from trying again.
“I tried to take my life 10 times in eight years. Seven of those times were within the first two years.”
Myers’ illness got worse. He developed anxiety on top of his depression.
“I’m the kind of person that doesn’t like to ask for help or share my feelings. I ended up isolating myself at home. I was embarrassed what people would think when they found out I tried to take my life and failed.”
During a stay at Kingston General Hospital, Myers was referred to Providence Care’s Community High Intensity Treatment Team.
A dozen highly skilled and dedicated clinicians supported Myers, including Dave Carmichael, an Occupational Therapist with Providence Care.
“Anxiety and depression takes life’s energy away,” explains Carmichael. “Steve is an amazing and courageous person. He is also a very anxious human being, so we had to build that therapeutic relationship.”
It started with Carmichael visiting Myers in his home, for coffee.
“He would come at least once a week. At times we wouldn’t even talk. We would just sit there,” recalls Myers. “He just kept coming and eventually I started opening up to him.”
But recovery takes time.
It took two years before Myers was willing to leave his home.
The pair decided to meet for double doubles at a local coffee shop.
But Myers was still anxious.
“I was worried about running into someone I knew and being asked ‘how are you doing?’ or ‘what are you doing now?”
“A large part of what we were doing was finding suitable explanations for Steve,” adds Carmichael. “We were working through role plays, how to explain oneself, saying things like ‘I’m not working, but here’s what I am doing.”
Myers quickly learned he could manage his anxiety if he controlled conversations.
“I would initiate a conversation with a ‘how are you?’ so they couldn’t ask me ‘what are you doing now?’ or ‘how are you feeling?”
“Initially it was about helping Steve push the boundaries with his anxiety, so that he could get out of the house,” explains Carmichael. “Then it was helping Steve set goals. These are all Steve’s goals, not Dave’s goals. So we’re moving at Steve’s pace and in a direction Steve wants to go.”
It would be another two years before Myers would be ready to take the next step with Carmichael: visiting his old restaurant.
“I knew I was going to a place where people knew me, and possibly even knew what I had attempted,” says Myers. “But I did it. And some people were surprised to see me and happy to see me.”
Myers started volunteering with Providence Care in January 2018.
“It’s a safe working environment. I’m not afraid if someone comes through that door, what they think of me because there is no judgement here.”
In addition to his weekly meetings with Carmichael, Myers also takes medication daily and he sees his psychiatrist once a month.
“He’s the type of client every clinician lives for. This is a man who couldn’t leave his house. He now leaves his house at will and he’s thoroughly exploring his wish to help other people,” says Carmichael.
Myers also credits his family for their support and sticking by him.
“I think I’m more focused on my family than I ever was. My wife says I am the most important person in her life and she would be devastated if I were to go. She really likes the person I have become.”
His advice for others who may be struggling with depression or anxiety: confide in someone you trust.
“Try to share your feelings with your family or friends. It’s what I should have done.”
It’s been hard work, but Myers says he’s improving every day.
Even opening up and sharing his story for this article was a big step for the 54-year-old.
“I’m not as embarrassed anymore. I have an illness and I have people I can count on for my illness.”
But the work isn’t done.
Myers hopes the experience he’s gaining from volunteering at Providence Care will help him with his next goal: to reenter the workforce.
Nikki Jhutti works in communications at Providence Care.