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We had whiteout conditions in Calgary and were going to send everyone home as soon as they arrived because it was too late to notify everyone that we intended to cancel.

People kept arriving so we decided to have a check-in anyway at least, and ended up having a fantastic, albeit short, meet-up.

Two topics we focused on:

Where do our loved ones go when they need help or support themselves, when they’re trying to help us?

  • Online resource: Heather Tuba, providing trauma-informed support to partners (and others) of survivors.
  • CMHA Calgary has drop-in groups for families or caregivers (anyone supporting a loved one or friend).

What free (or low-cost) resources are available that we may or may not know about that we can access ourselves or recommend to a loved one?

  • Calgary Counselling Centre: The link to their website takes you right to their main page where there’s a list of five things you need to know about Calgary Counselling Centre, including their fee structure (sliding scale, no financial barrier, so essentially free if you cannot afford service. It’s a full-service menu, so be sure to ask for what you want, i.e., if talk therapy doesn’t work for you, but you want to try EMDR, or somatic therapy, etc., be sure to tell them in the intake call. There is no wait list either, once you’ve completed the intake form, you will receive a call to set up an appointment within three to five business days.  Day, evening and Saturday appointments are available. https://calgarycounselling.com/counselling/
  • Carya  provides trauma-based counselling to individuals, families, and groups; available on either a “brief” 8 – 10 sessions format or longer-term; there is a wait list but they have just hired more staff so it should be shorter soon; also based on sliding scale format; locations in downtown Calgary and Forest Lawn: https://caryacalgary.ca/
  • Catholic Family Services: You do not have to be Catholic or religious to access their free services and several community members have suggested them: https://www.cfs-ab.org/what-we-do/
  • Primary Care Network (PCN): You can ask your family doctor for a referral to the PCN for counselling. They have locations throughout the city so you are able to access this resource in your quadrant. They do an intake with you over the phone and then connect you with an AHS therapist who best suits your needs, including EMDR, CBT, and other modalities.

*Please note these resources were provided by our community members as resources they have either used or have been recommended by their own therapists. We are sharing them as possible ways to access help but encourage you to look for what suits you and will support your healing.

Remember when you are looking for support that it may take more than one try to find someone who suits your needs, and that’s okay. Advocate for yourself. What works for one may not work for another and it’s important to recognize that in pursuing your healing journey.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in Calgary launched a 60 day initiative recently, to help end stigmas surrounding mental health and addiction. Each day, their website featured stories about resilience, strength and hope in healing. The Breaking Free Foundation Chair, Amber Craig, shared her story on the CMHA blog. Her piece:

“Sharing your truth is key to the healing process”— Theo Fleury from ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake

Have you ever had a secret that ate you up inside, a secret that you hid from the world, for fear of judgment or misunderstanding? I did. I hid myself in a cloak of shame and secrecy for 20 years.  

That shame and secrecy manifested itself in many difficult ways, including my depression diagnosis at 13-years-old. I felt very alone during my teenage years and early adulthood, mainly because I thought I was the only one dealing with this pain, and my secrecy kept me from accessing the mental health care I really needed.

In 2013, a nationwide movement was launched by Theo Fleury called the Victor Walk, an awareness initiative on ending childhood sexual abuse. The focus was to help survivors transition from victim to victor, it sounded amazing. I volunteered to help coordinate a Victor Walk rally in Calgary, and on May 23, 2013, my life changed forever.

During our Victor Walk rally, I listened to a dozen or more strangers bravely stand up and share their stories of trauma, abuse and the effect these experiences had on their lives and the lives of their loved ones. The last person to come up was a young girl, about six-years-old, with her mother. The pair shared a heartbreaking tale of abuse the young girl had suffered, and that brave little girl stood in front of us without fear, and declared to the world she would be a ‘victor’ too. Something shifted inside me as I heard these two share, or perhaps someone, the six-year-old girl inside me.

I grabbed the megaphone, and for the first time in my life, I spoke my truth and said “me too”. In that moment, I felt so incredibly free, I had risen above my mental illness and past trauma and accepted myself without shame. The best part was, the fear I was holding onto all those years turned out to be totally unfounded, because what happened after that day in 2013, was a domino effect of support from near and far. Even more compelling, the amount of people who reached out to say “me too”.  

Following the Victor Walk in 2013, I made a promise not to live in secrecy and shame anymore. I wrote a blog about my experience, and that blog made its way to the person who indirectly opened the door for me in the first place, Theo Fleury.

Fleury kick-started a group of Calgarians with a common goal to help the trauma community, and the result was seven of us creating the Breaking Free Foundation. Our foundation not only continues to put on the annual Victor Walk movement, but also provides free trauma therapy via a grant process. I feel blessed to work with an amazing group and in an amazing community of supporters and advocates who are working together to create awareness and end stigma surrounding trauma and mental health.

In the three years since the first Victor Walk, I have transitioned from victim to victor to advocate. Not only was I able to finally receive mental health treatment from an amazing psychologist, I have been able to turn my experience into a gift.

Today, I live a fulfilling and mostly happy life. Like many others with mental illness, I too have ups and downs, but I’ve learned to embrace them as opportunities for growth. I am always learning, always healing and always growing.

#NowImStronger because sharing my story helped me help others.

 

Link to the CMHA story and website here