And then I realized I was the only healthy mentor my children had. I had to be, the best I could be to give them self-regulation, especially living with a family member that has mental illness and addiction. Living in constant fear.
Simplification of my life both internally and externally is what I was thriving for. My focus was finding the right help for both myself and my children with hopes that we could model healthier behaviour for all. That help was very difficult to discover, almost nowhere to be found.
That wasn’t enough, George passed from suicide and I came forward to tell my story hoping it would encourage others to tell their own. As I shared my story, I realized, I was caught up in intimate partner terrorism and had absolutely no idea. Education drives me to amplify awareness of mental health and illness, addiction, intimate partner terrorism, gender inequities, all inequities and the unwarranted variations of care in health, education, justice, social sector etc. depending who you are and where you come from.
I have become a community advocate with lived experience by design. The more conversations I had, the more I realized my story needed to be shared so it can help reduce stigma and encourage systemic change. I am currently part of a city-wide taskforce that is developing and implementing a new strategy to improve mental health and addictions concerns for the City of Calgary. Provincially I am on a mental health advisory council to provide recommendations to improve access to recovery-oriented mental health and addiction services. Globally I am involved IIMHL an international city and urban regional collaborative (I-Circle) to support mental health and well-being within urban settings.
When I was Karen, that had the life of envy, I would fear change. I had no idea how much one person’s lived experience could have a positive collective impact on a family, a community, an organization, a city, a province and even a nation. I am grateful to have these opportunities since George’s passing and I will continue to do more, I now embrace and trust change.