In my parents’ living room, there is a copy of Ontario Shores’ 2015 annual report with my smiling face gracing the cover. It’s been seven years since that photo was taken, and it is getting harder to convince people that the seventeen-year-old featured on that cover is me, especially when they flip to page thirty-two and read my story.
The annual report was truly only the beginning of my recovery journey. Ontario Shores not only gave me a second chance at life, but they also equipped me with a toolkit of coping skills that have helped me achieve things that seventeen-year-old Chelsea could never have dreamed of.
The strongest tool of them all was hope.
Two years after I was featured on the annual report, I graduated from high school. Prior to Ontario Shores, attending school was difficult for me, as anxiety made sitting in a classroom full of my peers impossible. Ontario Shores ensured I had a successful transition back into school by setting me up with a solid support team within the building. I would leave the adolescent unit during the day for school and return in the afternoon. Slow integration allowed me to work through my anxiety with a team that truly cared about my success. I not only graduated on the honour roll, but I also was accepted into Trent University where I achieved a Bachelor of Arts degree.
The toolkit of coping skills I was given helped me thrive in post-secondary studies. Throughout my degree studies, I considered ways in which I could contribute to the system that changed my life. I wanted to find ways I could help youth like Ontario Shores helped me. A few months ago, Ontario Shores invited me back to take photos with my former psychologist Dr.
D’Iuso. During that conversation we discussed educational pathways I could take to further my career. It became evident that a graduate degree would allow me to change lives like Dr. D’Iuso changed mine. I am currently a Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology student. Upon graduating I hope to provide counselling services to youth with mental illness.
I had been in previous adolescent inpatient units before Ontario Shores. What makes Ontario Shores unique is that they treat adolescents like individuals, rather than a number. I was always informed of my treatment plan, what types of medications I was getting and what each one did.
I hope to one day give the same dignity I was given to youth I care for. In seven years, I managed to transform my life from someone who was hopeless to someone with the tools to create hope. I will always be grateful to Ontario Shores for giving me my hope back, and I will always look at the 2015 annual report as my first step toward changing lives.