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I like myself again

Mushroom paintings
Published Date

If I looked at my life 2 years in the future, I probably would be dead. I hated myself!

It was a late rainy January afternoon at a Starbucks that I was going to meet her face-to-face for the first time. However, this woman helped to save my life through months of intensive online therapy. 

My story is one rife with irony. How did I, a person who counselled others through their addictions, become one myself? How does a mother who successfully raised two beautiful daughters, allow her own life to spiral out of control?

In 2010, I received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. The main component of recovery…pills, lots of pills. They made me a walking zombie, but still, my condition stabilized and for years I coped.  

Then, around the time I turned 40, came the beginning of that “downward spiral”. My partner and I had committed to having a baby. Because of circumstances, the only choice given to us was through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Sadly, as is often the case with IVF, a baby was not meant to be. This outcome hit me hard. I watched as my life took a very dark turn. I started hanging around with the wrong crowd. I engaged in very risky behaviour including with various drugs. This was not me, although now it was. My daughters watched all of this happen and you can imagine the pain they endured watching their mother destroy herself before their eyes. And for good reason. If I looked at my life 2 years into the future, I probably would be dead. I hated myself! The irony continued. All this was going on in my life while I was still working as an addiction counsellor.

It was then that my daughters could take no more. They woke me up, literally. 

“You need help, mom!”

And so, I put the brakes on and reached out. Once I slowed down, I found out that I did not have bipolar disorder, as first told. My actual diagnosis turned out to be borderline personality disorder. My doctor fought to find the best place for me to recover, Ontario Shores. Meantime I joined Narcotics Anonymous. I tried to clean my life up but I would slip. I struggled a lot, often having to shamefully pick up the white key tag indicating that I was starting all over…again. It’s here that irony makes yet another appearance as I would find myself in groups with the very people I had helped in my job working as an Addiction Counsellor.

M and Gwenn

It was a wait to get into Ontario Shores, but a wait so worthwhile. I joined a virtual therapy group led by Gwenne, a Social Worker. Who knew that she was to become one of the most important people in my life? The therapy? Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). DBT counselling is no “bird” course either. This was work, hard work. It still is. It’s work every day to stay on track. 

I am now a Peer Support Specialist. It’s rewarding to allow my experiences to help others through, for some, the darkest times in their lives. I am in a good relationship and love to paint. (For some reason, painting images of mushrooms dominates my work.) But I wouldn’t be here at all if it wasn’t for the love and support of my children, Riley and Regan, as well as both my mother and my father. The guidance they provided saved me.

So, here I am, sitting at Starbucks, talking with Gwenne. No screens separating us. I’m still sorting things out, perhaps for the rest of my life. But she was there for me, and still is. I don’t hate myself anymore.

~ M.