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'My Mental Illness Didn't Stop Me' - Crysten

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Naturally soft-spoken and perhaps a little timid, Crysten has shown a determination that inspires others.

“She’s worked so hard,” notes Donna McAleer-Smith, a Registered Practical Nurse at Ontario Shores who supported Crysten through the Grove School. “She’s very kind and has that silent strength. She’s a great role model.”

Things didn’t always seem positive and promising in Crysten’s world.

Always an anxious child, Crysten began to struggle at age 12. Diagnosed with anxiety and depression, she came to Ontario Shores as an outpatient before being admitted as an inpatient on the Adolescent Unit.

Diagnosed at 18 with Borderline Personality Disorder, Crysten has also spent time in Ontario Shores’ Partial Hospitalization Program and the Transitional Aged Youth program.

“It felt like torture,” says Crysten of struggling with mental illness. “I didn’t understand what was going on with me.”

Her illness, along with a learning disability and the recovery process, derailed her progress in school.

“School has always been tough for me,” the now 20-year-old says.

The Grove School at Ontario Shores is a partnership with the Durham District School Board which patients under the age of 21 have an opportunity to earn Ontario Secondary School credits, while they are receiving treatment. She completed four credits through the Grove School to earn her diploma and set course for post-secondary school. She now has her sights set on being a Registered Practical Nurse and will begin her post-secondary school career next September at Centennial College in Scarborough.

“I’m so proud of her, but I have no right to be,” says Donna. “She’s done this all on her own. Her success is a result of her hard work.”

While working toward earning her diploma, Crysten says the support she received through the Grove School from the staff at Ontario Shores and the DDSB was vital to her success.

“I didn’t think I would ever be able to apply for college,” she says. “I feel like they have done so much for me.”

In her recovery, Crysten relies on Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) to help her manage her illness. DBT is a therapy designed to help people change patterns of behaviour that are not helpful, such as self-harm, suicidal thinking and substance abuse.

“It’s helped me so much,” she says of DBT. “With the skills I have learned, I feel like a completely different person.”

Also assisting her recovery is a small, but not insignificant reminder in the form of the word ‘Hope’, which is tattooed on her chest.

“Before I never had hope for myself,” says Crysten, who also has the word ‘Love’ tattooed on her wrist to remind her to love herself. “I finally do have hope and I wanted something to remind me of that every day.”

The Ontario Shores Foundation for Mental Health has launched an awareness campaign to our local community and beyond. The campaign highlights five of our patients and their incredible stories of recovery, utilizing a variety of print and digital medium.

In recognition of Mental Illness Awareness Week, our regular #5in5 – Five Recovery Stories in Five Days series will feature patients who are participating in the campaign.

We encourage you to support this initiative by sharing posts on Ontario Shores’ Facebook and Twitter pages using #FocusedOnRecovery. 

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