Love Will Make You Stronger

We are your typical single parent family. A mother who works at the hospital and two teenage children who attend high school. But if you actually knew us personally you would know that there’s so much more to our story than meets the eye.

My son has just turned 17 and he is passionate about his music and very artistic by nature.

Then there’s my daughter who will be 16 this summer. She is shy, sweet, and has such a stubborn streak about her.

A bit about me. I’m a middle aged woman, who after being in a long term marriage chose to leave with her children, to set about creating a new life for all of them.

Our story is not unlike a lot of others out there. A couple who could not have their own children, that decided to open their hearts and their home to adopt two beautiful babies.

First came our son with the most precious beautiful little face and the minute I saw him I was in love. Then a mere 15 months later came our daughter; she was so tiny and yet had a strength about her far bigger than her tiny size.

It wasn’t until the children got a bit older that I noticed there were things that made them different emotionally and developmentally. They had challenges that other children didn’t. I myself had already raised two children and I knew that this was not the way it was supposed to be.

As the years went on, it became more and more difficult to parent the children without seeking a lot of outside support from agencies. It was at this time that my son entered the mental health system on an outpatient basis. At the same time, my daughter was not meeting the developmental milestones but it still remained a mystery as to why.

After many years of struggling in a love- and support-less marriage, I chose to leave with the children. My life had been one where money was plenty and luxuries were many. At the time I had no idea how different my life was about to be.

After a very contentious divorce, my ex-husband decided to bankrupt himself to punish me. This in turn meant the children and I lost our home, our vehicle, and had to give away our much loved dog, Abby. We had no place to live and no financial means to support us all but a small amount of support.

My search for housing became totally overwhelming and I feared we would be homeless. In a last ditch effort I contacted my local MLA for her support in getting into some kind of social housing. I’m sure you can appreciate that this was a considerable fall from grace: going from wealthy to poor. It had become obvious that without this we would be on the street. Our MLA, “LP”, came to our defence after hearing our story. Her plan was to make us the story on the floor in the BC legislature the next day. Her focus was to be this so-called opposition government in power’s “family first” plan which we all knew was a farce. When the government at the time heard this, I miraculously received three offers of social housing that very day.

The days then turned into weeks and the weeks to months, and slowly I was putting our life back together again. The children were in a very good supportive school environment. Now the job lay with me as to what our future was going to be.

Here I was, a middle-aged woman alone with two children whose special needs by now were very prevalent in our day-to-day struggles.

I needed to reinvent myself and find a career that I was passionate about. It also had to be one where I could work around the support schedule that was needed to maintain my children’s lives. I chose to go back to school but with no resources to my name. After much work, I managed to secure a student loan and went back to re-educate myself in healthcare. I remember the first day feeling absolutely terrified, wondering if I could do this, wondering if I was too old and would anybody hire me? After more than a year in school and juggling our busy schedules, I was finally done and embarked upon finding myself a job in the medical system. I managed to secure an on-call position with the local hospital and knew that we are on our way to bigger and better things.

Ironically, when life hands you some good things other things become more challenging. By now both my children were facing new hurdles in their lives. They were growing up to become teenagers but their struggles far surpassed any of your average teen’s. After much preparation, I finally felt that I could go to work. This would mean leaving the children at home during the day and feeling confident that they would be alright.

It has been almost 5 years since I left and we have all grown so much (including myself, of course.)

My daughter had been struggling with some physical health symptoms. After much testing it was then discovered that she had suffered permanent brain damage in utero due to no fault of anyone. As I’m sure you can appreciate, this news was beyond devastating, but at least we finally had an answer. Her brain damage was very specific to certain areas that she had always struggled with. This meant finding the right support people and designing an education plan which would optimize her brain development. This was all time-sensitive as her brain was still growing.

My son had his own struggles as his mental health was declining though he had been on medication since he was five. He was self-harming, completely overwhelmed by anxiety and simply unable to make connections with the outside world. After pushing and pushing his mental health team for answers, I decided to get a second and then a third opinion on him. Much to my anger, disappointment and ultimately relief, we finally had an answer as to what was going on with him. He was, in fact, Autistic and of course had been since birth. The diagnosis was high functioning Aspergers syndrome. This answered so many questions but also brought with it much guilt on my part. After all I was his mother. Why didn’t I know? Why hadn’t I seen the signs all these years? I had trusted the mental health of my son to professionals who couldn’t have got it more wrong. Now finally with a proper diagnosis we could make a plan on how best to support him.

What I did know is that the debt that had been left to me from my ex-husband’s bankruptcy is now fully upon the children and I. There were phone calls, there were letters and I couldn’t take it anymore. So, finally after six years being on my own, I also went bankrupt which was the only way to clean the slate of my old life.

I can only tell you the relief it is now to have all of that behind me. I have applied for, and now have, my own secured credit card and I’m working very hard to build back my credit rating.

Throughout the years, I could never have made it through without the support of loving friends and family. I have chosen to find a counsellor to support me through my journey and and frankly, she saved my life.

Here we are now – fast forward to seven years since I walked out with the children. We have a modest safe home that we know no one can take from us. My daughter has made strides mentally and emotionally far beyond what anyone said was possible.

My son finally has a behavioural interventionist team. They, along with the school support team, are working with him. His new medication has helped, but we continually strive to get it right. Our job is to introduce him to the world and help him find his path.

I have just secured a permanent position with the hospital which will give us much-needed benefits. This position will allow me the time to still be available to support my children.

Throughout my journey, one thing has always remained constant and that is the face that I put forward for the world. Very early on in my journey, I figured out that if I do my hair, put on my makeup and wear clothes that I feel good in, then I can conquer anything. I refer to it as “my suit of armour.”

There is absolutely no way that I could’ve written this story knowing what the outcome would be. But there isn’t a day that I don’t count myself as blessed to have had the opportunity to raise these two amazing children. I have no idea what the future will bring, but I know we’ve come through so much together and I look forward to what the future holds.