My name is Jeri and I am a 2nd year Bachelor of Nursing student at Central Queensland University (CQU). My experience at Recovery Camp has been life changing. I was both terrified and excited before camp started. While I have never received an official diagnosis, or even talked to a health care professional about my mental health, I can confidently say I suffer from anxiety. I had my first severe “panic attack” when I was 17. I continued to have them to lesser degrees for a few more years but was able to learn how to avoid stressful triggers to keep my anxiety under control. Social situations were, and still are, the worst, especially in a group of people that I don’t know. But having made the decision to become a nurse I really felt like this camp would be a make or break point for me and my nursing career, and I was terrified.
I was excited when I first saw the application to apply for Recovery Camp. I thought it sounded way more interesting than the usual hospital or community setting. I’ve always been an outdoors person, so a camping trip was right up my ally. I also really liked the fact that 1 week at camp was equivalent to the required 80 placement hours. It felt like cheating a little, but I knew there would be justification for it. What I didn’t realize is that 1 week at camp would be mentally and physically exhausting, but would fly by in a whirlwind of activities, new friendships, and experiences I will never forget.
During the week at Recovery Camp, I became more confident in myself and my abilities. I was actively engaging in conversations, even seeking out people, making it a point to sit with someone different every day at meals and during activities. The highlight of my experience is when I MC’d the trivia night. Even though I was beyond nervous, I overcame my fears and had some fun! I noticed the same change in some of the consumers too. On day 1 and even day 2, there were some individuals that were withdrawn, and I had to really work hard to get them to open up. By day 5, these same people were seeking me out and starting the conversation themselves.
Before coming to Recovery Camp, I was kinda-sorta toying with the idea of specializing into Mental Health. Now I am certain that is the area of nursing I want to pursue. The consumers I met at Recovery Camp are the most amazing people. They were there, volunteering their time to help us nursing students better understand their mental illnesses, while also working towards their own recovery goals. It was actually during a group session where the consumers shared their experiences with mental illness, and mental health nurses, that made me fully decide to be a mental health nurse. The overall theme they all conveyed was that their experiences with mental health nurses were mostly negative. I want to help change that. I feel like I have already made a positive impact in some of their lives. They have definitely changed mine for the better.