I have struggled with mental health issues for as long as I can remember.
As a baby I suffered from unexplained seizures – the cause was never found, even to this day. During the process of trying to figure out why it was happening, my doctor’s noticed abnormal brain activity, but not seizure activity.
Later on, as a toddler, I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which turned out to be the explanation for the abnormal brain activity. I was on so many different medications over my childhood, trying to find the ones that “worked”. I felt like nothing worked, but I was always told what did and didn’t.
I had a pretty typical childhood, I suppose, despite the medications. I was bullied relentlessly almost everywhere I went. I had a strong personality and I was a bit of a weirdo. I moved around a lot. A new school every year, sometimes two. It was difficult, I suppose, but I think I did an okay job of handling it. Looking back on it now, it is probably the biggest reason why I move around as much as I do as an adult. I don’t feel tied to any one place.
When I was 14 years old, we lived in a small town called Gananoque, and an incident at home prompted me to take a bunch of my nighttime medication, called Clonidine. I had gone out the night before to my friend’s house to hang out and watch movies. I hung out with her, and her family. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, except for being out of the house while my mother was at work. I accidentally locked the door and forgot the keys, so when I got home, I tried to break in. I had asked another friend to come help pick the lock. It didn’t work and of course we did damage to the door knob. I slept in the stairwell while I waited for my mother to come home. When she got home, she was pissed, of course, and we had to borrow a ladder to go through the window. When we got in, she decided to kick me out. She couldn’t handle my behaviour. So, I decided to take the pills to go to sleep. My hope was that she would forget about kicking me out, while I slept and that I could stay. I was not trying to kill myself, I just wanted to go to sleep for a while. I figured if I was asleep, I wouldn’t be bothered. Ah, the thought process of a 14 year old, eh?
During my time in the hospital, my downstairs neighbour, who I thought was my friend, visited me in the hospital, and then promptly returned to school to tell everyone my business. When I returned to school, I had been nicknamed after the medication I took. Yep, people called me “Clonidine”. They made fun of me because they thought I was suicidal. I went back to school very alone, and hurt. It was around then when I started really cutting classes.
I was admitted into Hotel Dieu in Kingston, in their psych ward for several weeks where they did all kinds of assessments. I was additionally diagnosed with Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD) and Conduct Disorder. For those who are not aware, Conduct Disorder is an aggression disorder in both children and adolescents. It has a different diagnosis in adults called Antisocial Personality Disorder. I have never been diagnosed with that, however.While in Hotel Dieu, I was given weekend passes, and my mother would come and pick me up. During one of my weekends, my mother took me to a wedding where I met a guy who was a year older than me. I ended up sneaking booze all night and getting completely wasted. I still do not remember exactly what happened, but I know that I embarrassed my mother and her friends. I was forgiven, but the damage was done.
When I left Hotel Dieu, the talks of sending me to Foster Care had started. My mother worked and couldn’t provide 24 hour supervision, and I couldn’t be trusted to be alone or behave appropriately. From this point forward, I would spend my life assuming that if my own mother didn’t want me, no one else could. It was the pure desperation of wanting to be loved that fueled the rest of my relationships. How could anyone love me? I was clearly a bad person.
I was sent to Mallorytown for my first placement. I was able to stay at my high school, but of course, there were a lot of incidents. I spent a lot of time on in-school suspensions, and even got fully suspended. I started acting out in the home, and began stealing cigarettes from my foster mom. She asked me to leave. I went home until another placement could be found.
I went to a home in Kemptville and transferred high schools. This didn’t work out either, after even such a short time. I called my mother crying all the time begging to come home. One day she let me. When I got home I had a list of rules a mile long – I actually still have a copy of them somewhere within all my paperwork boxes. I couldn’t stick to them and was sent to a home in Seeley’s Bay. I was there the longest, and my foster mom was a lot more patient with me than any of the others. She gave me time to adjust, but I never truly did. I loved her, and her daughters, but I just didn’t fit in there. I didn’t know how to behave. I felt broken. I started stealing toonies from her for cafeteria cookies. After a year and a half, she told my CAS Worker that she couldn’t deal with me any longer, and I was sent home again temporarily. My last foster home was with a 70 year old woman in Lansdowne. At this home, I had my 16th birthday. I had a boyfriend who lived a few houses down, who was significantly older than me. I started drinking really bad in this home. After an incident where I snuck out twice in one night, I was sent home again, for the final time.
At this point, I was 16 years old and had no where to go if I misbehaved. But, I didn’t care. I had stopped taking my medication at this point, and I was spinning out of control. I was smoking and drinking. I got a boyfriend who was only a couple years older than me, and ended up moving in with him. I quit school. I drank quite a bit but not as often as people thought, as my boyfriend at the time wasn’t a big drinker. He worked while I sat in his grandparent’s basement sleeping and playing video games. I was basically a bum.
After that relationship ended, I ended up moving home again, and went back to school. That is when I met a guy who would be one of my most significant relationships regarding my mental health. He was in the same grade as me, new to the area, and he liked me. We started talking right there on the first day of school, in grade 11. Within 2 weeks, it was his birthday, and we went out to his mother’s for a huge barn party. I got hammered, but for the most part, I am pretty sure I behaved – I’d have to ask him. It wasn’t until a bit later that I really stopped tolerating my alcohol. We started fighting a lot, mostly about stupid shit but a lot of it was about my drinking, and how I’d act when I drank. I was embarrassing. I had a temper. I got bold and brave for all the wrong reasons. I would also get very mouthy. The end of the relationship really came on a night where the fight turned physical. He pushed me into a door frame and then I punched him in the head. Cops were called and I was arrested (with my dog). This would be just the first time I spent in the drunk tank. I ended up getting charged but it is no longer on my record after community service hours, and completion of my probation. I moved back home.
After this, the next relationship I got into was with a man 10 years older than me. He lived in a rooming house with a bunch of other guys, and is a drug dealer. He was an alcoholic, so for me, it was easy to have alcohol at my constant reach. I worked, but only to drink. I never gave him money for bills, I literally spent my pay cheques on snacks and alcohol. I drank every single day for a year. During this time, I also started doing cocaine – for 6 months towards the end of the relationship. I never had an addiction to the cocaine however – it impacted me so differently than it did other people. I still slept, I had no problems eating, and I didn’t feel I needed it. I really just did it to fit in with the crowd. “It was free, so why not?”. This relationship ended quite sour. Almost all our fights were physical. I was beating people up at bars, calling on people constantly. Never lost though. I had several nights in the drunk tank under my belt. The drinking. The drugs. But finally I had enough. I called my mom to move home, and quit everything. I am not sure she knew about the cocaine at that point, but she knows now.
At this point I had walked away from that relationship, moved back home, and was ready to figure out my life. I was 19 years old. Time to grow up.
On October 2nd, 2009, just one day after my birthday, I was sitting on my mothers computer, chatting with people on Facebook. I started talking to this guy, who was very well known. Everyone knew him. I had kind of hung out with before in a group setting, but basically didn’t know him. He asked me why I was alone during my birthday weekend, and I ended up inviting him over for some drinks. I cannot remember where my mother was. I think she was gone for the weekend to Brantford. I cannot honestly remember. Anyways, the guy showed up while I was making dinner. I decided to make pasta because it was quick and easy. He brought a bottle of Fireball with him. He had already been drinking and started downing shots. I only had 2 shots of the fireball, so I was basically sober. He started talking inappropriately to me, and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting it. I should have, looking back, but for some reason I just thought he wanted to be nice and come hang out. He threw me down on my mothers couch, and ripped my pants and underwear off. I tried to push him off me, but he was much stronger than me. I struggled quite a bit, shouted “no” and “stop”. He didn’t. While he raped me, I cried. To show he was done, he passed out on top of me, clearly hammered. I got out from under him, grabbed my cell phone, his booze, and my dog, and locked myself in my mom’s room and cried. I was bleeding, and sore, and threw on a pair of my mothers pants, then I called a friend who came over and sat outside my mothers window. When he left, I grabbed the phone, walked out to the living room, shook the guy, and told him he needed to get the hell out of my house. He left after accusing me of stealing money from his wallet, and demanding to know where his booze was. I lied and said he drank it all – which was almost true. He drank over half of it, in a very short time. When he left, I locked the door immediately, and called another friend over and explained what happened. When my mother got home, I didn’t tell her what happened but she noticed white stains on the couch (I couldn’t wash it properly, apparently) and I lied to her and told her I spilled milk. To this day, we have never discussed it.
Shortly after that, less than a week, this guys girlfriend messaged me calling me a liar. Several people messaged me to tell me I made it up. Apparently one of the friends I called decided to spread it to the wrong people. I was scared for my life, after everything that happened and then being threatened. I had nightmares every night for several weeks. However, roughly two weeks later, I met up with my previous ex one night, after a night of drinking, and we slept together. The only reason why this is significant is for the next part.
In November, I found out I was pregnant. Being honest, either could have been the father at that point, and neither was a winner. The guy who raped me or a drug dealer. After testing, we determined it was most likely the drug dealer, so that is who I told was the father, but he knew right away that it was possible he wasn’t. He, for the most part, took full responsibility and never demanded a paternity test.
This pregnancy itself was very easy, but also one of the toughest things I have ever gone through, because I was very alone. I did not get back together with my ex, and I went to all the baby appointments with my mom. I was lonely. I ended up moving back to Brantford, with my Mom, towards the end of my pregnancy.
After having my oldest, I had a really bad experience with Postpartum depression. I didn’t hurt her, or myself, but I spiraled again. The drinking, the depression. At this point, I started seeing a psychiatrist and I was unofficially diagnosed with Bi Polar disorder.
I drank significantly and would throw parties. I always boasted about how she could sleep through anything. I had two same-sex relationships that didn’t turn out well at all. The first was with someone who also had severe mental health issues, and our issues clashed. She spent the entire 2 years cheating on me, and I spent the entire two years staying. She was consistently depressed and suicidal, including a time where she grabbed a knife and tried to end her life. I had to call the cops. The whole thing was just a huge mess, but it eventually ended. The second relationship, was much more my fault than hers, but it was too much, regardless. She had low self esteem, and didn’t trust me. But, let’s face it, she had good reason. I spent over half of that relationship cheating on her with men.. she still, to this day, doesn’t even know. (Or maybe now she will?) I was horrible to her, because I spent most of it drunk. I don’t think I ever truly wanted that relationship but I was too scared to be alone. If it wasn’t with her, it was going to be someone else. When we broke up, it was bad. I did get my best friend in the end though. (She was actually my ex’s friend first, but we got incredibly close)
A month later, I moved in with my mom, temporarily, while I looked for a place that I could afford, in Brantford. A few days later, I started a relationship with my childhood crush. This man was my first kiss, when I was only 11 years old (he was 15/16). I wanted him to also be my last kiss. I was finally living my fairy tale, or so I thought…
We got together July 30th, 2015. Right from the beginning, I was a completely different person. Stuff that normally bothered me, I didn’t say anything about. Feelings I had were not brought up. Thoughts I had were left unsaid. The guy practically got away with whatever he wanted.
October 4th, I found out I was pregnant. I wasn’t sure I was that excited, but I went with it. I didn’t believe in abortion and I wasn’t going to let my emotions about the relationship decide. On Halloween we came to Cambridge for a friends birthday, and he wouldn’t come unless his friend did. I drove and he was drinking in the car. I kept telling him not to, and he basically told me to fuck off. I told him if he kept drinking, he wouldn’t be able to stay with me at my house. My mom had enough of dealing with us drinking all of the time leading up to me getting pregnant. He kept drinking at the bar, and then kept trying to drink in the car on the way home, but also kept passing out. I threw his booze out the window, and dropped him off at his house. I told him the reason why he wasn’t coming to my house was because of how intoxicated he was and I had already explained to him that if he got that drunk he wasn’t coming to my house; he text me a bunch trying to make me feel guilty – he told me he broke his hand by punching the brick wall outside – he eventually passed out and stopped texting me. The next day he texted me and I told him I was still very upset with him; he called me and screamed at me and broke up with me for having feelings “they are too much and I am done”. He went as far to say “I will see you in June when the baby is born”. I said “okay, is that all?” and he said yes, so we hung up. He called me back 7 minutes later to say he didn’t mean it and that obviously he didn’t mean anything to me because I was so quick to let him go. I explained that I didn’t feel it was necessary to beg him to stay – those would be feelings. We ended up getting back together that day.
There were a few other issues during that time in regards to another woman, him not actually going to work, and some other stuff, but it really started to go south when we moved in together at the end of November, that year.
I am going to spare quite a few details of the abuse I endured mainly because it would take too long to type out, plus, it is hard putting myself back in that mindset, but, just know the following few paragraphs have a huge trigger warning. These are just a few of the traumas I endured during the 3.5 years together.
He would constantly call me an “idiot” and a “retard” while screaming at me. He used porn as a threat (if you don’t do this, I will go watch porn by myself). Refusing to work. Making me pay for everything. Financial abuse, verbal, emotional, psychological, sexual. Gaslighting. He did it all. He spent every single day lying to me about the simplest of things. Some things were just not things you need to lie about while other things, I suppose I could understand about not wanting to “get in trouble”, but let’s face it, he didn’t care what I thought. It was him who scared me, not the other way around.
Halfway through my pregnancy, he decided to have a few beers, and we were sitting down talking at the dining room table. He had just told me that if him and his sons mother had met later on in life, he would still be with her. As his pregnant girlfriend, I found this very hard to hear, and started crying. I told him how hurt I was. He then threw a drink in my face and smashed my cellphone against a wall. Another time, a few weeks later, he overturned all the furniture in the living room, by throwing it at me. A couch coming at you, at 6 months pregnant, is pretty scary.
One night, he came home hammered out of his skull, while I was somewhere between 7 and 8 months pregnant. I was asleep. He was pissed off at me, so he woke me up by kicking the mattress as hard as he could, multiple times, and then ripping the blanket off of me. He kept yelling until I woke up. Then once I was awake, he kept screaming at me, calling me names, and wouldn’t let me speak. Once he was done being mad at me, he crawled into the bed and demanded sex. When I said no, he started getting mad again, so I did it anyways.
In May 2016, the police were involved. He threatened my friend by raising his fist at her, after she witnessed him punching a whole through the glass entry way door of the house when she was driving by. The police did absolutely nothing, and I ended up taking my oldest, and our dog to his friends house around the corner, for the night. The next day, he left. This was the last time we would officially live together.
When my youngest was born, I had literally no say in naming her. He had told me what her name would be, and I was allowed to spell it how I wanted. At this point, I was so scared of making him angry, that I had to sign the birth certificate the way he wanted it. He demanded to be on her birth certificate. Legally, I knew I was in trouble later, but the fear was far greater than anything I could imagine.
A few days after my youngest was born, we decided to have a couple drinks (I grabbed two Mad Jack root beers, that’s it). He drank a bunch. His friend was over. He got wasted and couldn’t find his xbox controller (he was setting the xbox up downstairs in the living room so he could have “alone” time – which just meant time to sit around and jack off) so he ripped apart our bedroom – the mattress was off the bed, all my dresser drawers were
emptied, etc – he screamed at me to find his remote and I told him “in a minute” – I was
feeding the baby – and he flipped out because he wanted it done right then and there; went and found it in 3 seconds and then apparently I was “too snappy” with the way I said “here, found it” and he went off on me. His friend actually had to leave because he couldn’t watch it happening (later informed). He screamed at me all night, so I told him I would gladly leave and he said “go ahead, but you aren’t taking the kids”. He said I was not allowed to take them, so I told him he was being a piece of shit. Then he forced me to put the baby down on the bed and stand up, and he told me to repeat myself, and when I did, he spit in my face and then refused to let me touch or hold the baby for several hours.
After that the abuse got worse, and I stayed. I was too scared to end the relationship. I was still making excuses for his behaviour. I later learned that is something called trauma-bonding. I started drinking more often, just to get away from it. I was the only parent these kids really had. Anytime he would try to abuse the kids, I would shift the focus from them to me, so I would also endure their abuse too.
In November of 2016, he was charged with 3 sexual charges against a minor. This is when he left my home and started staying with his mom on a permanent basis.
February 2nd, 2017, my mother called CAS on me because she showed up in the morning and I was “drunk”. I was drinking the night before, well into the early hours, and a sober person took care of my daughters in the morning. They were never alone with me. But, CAS, decided to take them away from me, even though it was a first time thing. Being so angry at my mother, I fought with CAS to let my ex take both girls. What a stupid fucking mistake that was, but it was also my saving grace. I had to rent out a room, elsewhere. For one month, I had access to my kids but couldn’t be with them for longer than 3 hours. He let me stay longer when I was “behaving” but if I was upset at him for anything, he would take away my visitation. One night, neither of us had the kids and we got into a fight. The next day, I showed up at the house for my visitation and he came flying out the house calling me names, and getting in my face. I simply went into the house and sat at the dining room table, waiting for the baby to wake up. He decided he didn’t want me there and tried to take away my visitation. He was stomping around the house screaming and yelling, while I sat there with my head down on the table, being quiet. He came over and put his arms around my neck (a chokehold, more or less), and tried to drag me out of the house by my head. Halfway to the door, I attempted to punch him in the stomach to get him off me – he was really hurting me, and he pushed me hard against the wall. He called his mother. I called his mother. Her words still haunt me to this day. “He told you to leave and you refused, what did you think would happen?”.
During the month he had the girls, he had rules to follow that were not being followed. He was drinking in the house, having random women over at 3 in the morning, etc. One day I showed up, and decided to search the house. I found a significant amount of cocaine in his coat, and a case of beer in one of the pantries. I immediately called my CAS worker and told her I was home, staying, and that he needed to get the fuck out of my house. He was gone. I was alone. It was over. We would never be considered a couple again.
I started going back to the psychiatrist who unofficially diagnosed me with bi-polar and I tried every medication she had. Nothing worked. I saw a trauma counsellor, and spoke with the local domestic violence woman’s shelter. I was trying to get better. Nothing was working. I wasn’t done yet.
I moved into my own apartment, in another part of town, that I could afford. In fact, he helped me move. I still felt obligation towards him. I still felt bonded. He spent a long time grooming me to believe only he loved me and no one else ever would. I still believed it, even after 6 months. We tried reconciling several times but they didn’t work. There were always issues, and I never trusted him. The abuse never faded.
I was still drinking, but only on weekends. The problem was, I was home with the kids, and drank copious amounts, when I did drink. I would black out. I wouldn’t wake up at decent hours. I counted on my 8 year old to help raise her sister who was a small toddler.
One night I decided to drink, and do the right thing. I called my ex over to stay so that way I could drink, and they would be “taken care of”. Instead, he purposely picked a fight with me to set me up. I told him to leave and he refused. So I called the police and then my mother. I was never alone with the kids that night/morning. My mother showed up (I called her) and she said she wasn’t leaving without calling CAS. This time, they demanded I get sober but I was allowed to keep my kids. Something in my brain knew I would never drink again, but all they insisted on was 3 months sobriety to close the file.
On February 18th, 2018, I became sober. I’ve been sober since – 2 years next month. My mental health along with all the trauma I endured made my recovery difficult. I didn’t drink to get drunk, I drank to escape. My addiction wasn’t the booze, but the feeling of “getting away”. That is what I chased. I mean, I had a very unhealthy relationship with alcohol but the addiction itself stemmed from wanting to escape.
He began stalking me and the kids. A week after the final incident, he saw me and the girls downtown once, and he came up from behind us and picked the little one up. I panicked. He followed us to the bank and waited outside. We quickly ran out the back door and onto a bus. People from the building would text me to say they saw him outside the apartment walking around. He wanted to know what I was doing, when, and with whom. That’s when I had enough, and so did my best friend. We very quickly planned for me to flee Brantford and come to Cambridge – where I am now.
Less than 30 days later, she passed away so suddenly. Long story short, we had been out shopping, and we stopped at her moms house to quickly paint a dollar store rabbit for the centerpiece for Easter dinner. This was the Saturday, dinner was the next day. My mother had the girls. At her moms, she complained about feeling dizzy and her feet going numb. She sat on the small sofa chair and had a seizure. I called 911. I got her off the couch, and safely to the floor. When she was done seizing, her head was in my lap. She stopped breathing and her heart stopped breathing, right there in my arms. I turned her over onto her back, and started doing CPR. The paramedics got there, shocked her, and brought her back. She spent the next 40ish hours on life support. She passed away early in the morning on Easter Monday. She was not just my best friend, but my soul mate. I actually woke up that morning struggling to breathe. It felt like there was an elephant on my chest. Moments later, her fiance called me to tell me she was gone. I had woken up at the exact time she took her last breath.
Now, I continuously struggle with mental health. I have one daughter who takes up all my time and energy with her sensory processing issues, and inability to self regulate, and another daughter who has her own mental health issues involving trauma, grief and her own diagnosis (ADHD, ODD, and anxiety). There is no time to deal with my own mental health. I frequently spend my time in a fight or flight response mode. I have flashbacks to abusive moments in my past relationship in the form of dreams, or just subconscious thoughts, which then trigger anxiety attacks. I fall into spirals of depression almost weekly, where I struggle with everyday tasks. I spend a lot of time in bed watching movies with the kids. We have started extra curricular activities (well, they have) to force us out of the house more often and so far it is working.
I have no one to really talk to anymore, and feel very alone most of the time. I have been single for almost 2 years now, and haven’t opened up my heart to anyone since my best friend died. No one else will be her, and I cannot be bothered to get that close to someone again. I have closed myself off emotionally to everyone in the world. This isn’t exactly by choice, it is because of everything I have been through. I have tried to put up a wall of protection, but it is more a wall to keep people out. I know that is something I need to work on.
My youngest starts daycare next week and the biggest item on my agenda is to seek counselling, and visit a psychiatrist or get a psychological assessment (which is super expensive, if anyone wants to send money – JK!). My mental health cannot be put on hold anymore, because these kiddos need a strong, healthy mom. I am all they have and I am running on empty. I will get better. I will always have mental health issues, but I will get them under control. Anything else is no longer an option.
Please end the stigma surround mental health. Everyone goes through things in their life that impacts them. No one is safe from these issues.
Thank you to everyone who reads this, and I just want everyone who struggles with addiction, and/or mental health issues to know that you are not alone. I hope my story inspires you in some way. It is okay to not be okay, and it does not make you weak. You are strong and you can get through this. My door (and inbox) is always open for anyone who needs to vent.