Anxiety does not define me. Ontario Shores was there for me when I needed it most.
A copy of Ontario Shores' 2015 annual report with my smiling face on the cover can be found in my parents' living room. It's been seven years since that photo was taken, and it's becoming increasingly difficult to persuade people that the seventeen-year-old on the cover is me, especially when they turn to page thirty-two and read my story.
The annual report and Ontario Shores were only the beginning of my road to recovery. Ontario Shores not only gave me a second chance in life, but they also provided me with a toolkit of coping skills that have enabled me to accomplish things that seventeen-year-old Chelsea could never have imagined.
Hope was the most powerful tool of all.
I graduated from high school two years after being featured in the annual report. Prior to Ontario Shores, I had difficulty attending school because my anxiety made sitting in a classroom full of my peers impossible. Ontario Shores made sure I had a smooth transition back to school by providing me with a strong support team within the building. I would leave the Adolescent Unit for school during the day and return in the afternoon. Slow integration enabled me to work through my anxiety with a team that was genuinely invested in my success. Not only did I graduate with honours, but I was also accepted to Trent University, where I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree.
The coping skills toolkit I was given helped me thrive in post-secondary studies. Throughout my degree program, I considered how I could contribute to the system that had changed my life. I wanted to find ways to help youth in the same way that Ontario Shores had helped me. Ontario Shores invited me back a few months ago to take photos with my former psychologist, Dr. D'Iuso. We talked about educational paths I could take to advance my career during that conversation. It became clear that a graduate degree would enable me to change people's lives in the same way that Dr. D'Iuso changed mine. I am currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology. After graduation, I hope to work as a counsellor for young people suffering from mental illnesses.
I had previously been in adolescent inpatient units before coming to Ontario Shores. Ontario Shores sets itself apart by treating its patients as individuals rather than numbers. I was always kept up to date on my treatment plan, what medications I was taking, and what each one did.
I hope to one day give the youth I care for the same dignity I was given. In seven years, I transformed my life from hopeless to hopeful by acquiring the tools to create hope. I will be eternally grateful to Ontario Shores for restoring my hope, and I will remember the 2015 annual report as my first step toward changing lives.
When you give to Ontario Shores, you help make sure that it will be there for people like me when they need it the most.