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One patient's recovery journey

​Danielle Slater can tell you with conviction that the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction is making a difference in the lives of patients. "I love it here.  It's not a perfect fit for everyone, but it is for me," she says.
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We meet the 22-year-old from Coquitlam as she is days away from returning home following a nine-month residence at The Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction, which put her on a firm path to recovery following drug and alcohol substance use disorders.

For 10 years, Slater has been navigating life with mental illness. 

"I was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 12 years old, so I've been dealing with it ever since then. It has been a struggle, and still is, but I figure I've got a pretty good hold on it now," she says. 

She still has hallucinations. "It's never quiet in my head," she says. Her auditory hallucinations are constant. Her visual hallucinations happen every three to five minutes, but they are much "softer" and more manageable than they used to be due to medication management. 

Health setbacks 

Two years ago, Danielle suffered a serious blow to her health. A avid roller derby athlete and fan, Danielle had a crash on the rink that ended in a broken ankle. It was a complex, triple fracture. Doctors used three plates and nine screws during surgery to repair it.

The pain was intense, but the pain medication was worse, she says.

"I was prescribed oxycodone for the pain, and I got hooked on that. Eventually I couldn't afford buying oxycodone from a dealer after my prescription ran out, so I switched to heroin. That's how it started. When I stopped using heroin, I started using alcohol. The alcoholism became a whole thing. It got pretty bad. It actually took over my life."

She credits support from friends and her parents, her mother in particular, for helping her get treatment. 

Moving forward

At the Burnaby Centre, Danielle found group therapy sessions critical to her recovery. She talks about the art, music and knitting groups being therapeutic. However, what resonated most was Matrix, a relapse prevention group, and Women Seeking Safety, a women-only group where participants talked about past trauma and how it was affecting them in the present.

"I have learned a lot from these two groups – things that I can take with me when I go home from here," Danielle says. "I've been staying on my treatment, and I've been pretty successful here, so I'm looking forward to my discharge."  

She also credits the staff at the Burnaby Centre as being critical to her recovery: "There are certain staff that I have really connected. Most of the staff here have been pretty brilliant. They have all played a different part in my recovery, and I'll remember them for a long time." 

Danielle has a strong network of friends in the local roller derby community who are not involved with drugs and alcohol. She is excited about returning to roller derby and spending more time with her parents and her dog, Lula. 

Moving forward, she hopes to volunteer at her local library and animal shelter. She also talks about wanting to, in time, give back to the Burnaby Centre because of the difference it made in her life. 

"I would really like to volunteer here because this place saved me; I don't want to leave it behind."  

Women's Health
SOURCE: One patient's recovery journey ( )
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