Christine is finally living a healthier, stronger life.

At the age of 14, Christine’s mental health was at risk. She relied on drugs and alcohol to ease the pain of her disturbing thoughts and to push aside any challenges within relationships. She was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and was treated with various medications. For five years, Christine cycled in and out of the hospital receiving different diagnoses. “I was a prisoner in my own mind… my illness ruled my life,” she says. “What they (the doctors) decided I could and couldn’t do, is what I could or couldn’t do. I had no ability to care for myself or my children.” Eventually, Christine was treated for bipolar disorder; her symptoms changed, but her quality of life did not.

Doctors tried every treatment possible. She attended support groups in another area of Oxford County, which required transportation and added costs. With limited resources, she was not able to continue attending until a local support group was available sometime later. Christine still enjoys every aspect of her group. Potlucks, adventures to the beach and sharing life with other individuals with similar challenges and experiences has been a lifeline for her. These peer to peer groups and other mental health resources are supported through United Way Oxford.

As the years passed, Christine became increasingly terrified of the thoughts in her head. She realized these visions were always about hurting herself or the people closest to her. One day, her fear led her to call the emergency crisis response line and she was immediately given the support she needed by someone who was available to listen. Accepting she had no other options, Christine decided her terrifying thoughts needed to be shared out loud if she wanted to get stronger. She finally disclosed the severity of her thoughts to healthcare professionals. For the first time, Christine felt a sense of relief. She was able to get to the hospital and receive the care she needed. This courage led to a more accurate diagnosis that allowed her to have the correct treatment and ultimately, a fuller, healthier life. At last, with support and understanding from her medical team, Christine felt heard.

Being too ill to care for her children, Christine has been unable to fulfil the role of being their mom on a full-time basis. However, with this sense of relief and well-being, she has found a new purpose as their mother. She strives to help her children understand mental health and the importance of speaking up. Christine whole-heartedly believes, “we don’t know how strong we are until being strong is the only choice we have”. She believes in the power of using your voice to be heard. To her, it can make the difference between living and thriving.

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