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As a member of the Breaking Free Foundation team, and open advocate and Victor, many people are familiar with my trauma stories and struggles with PTSD.

And part of my ongoing conversation is to share my struggles with suicidal thoughts, including the final battle I won, where I attempted suicide at 14-years-old. Most people assume that this dark day came as a result of years of dealing with a number of sexual traumas, something I’m very open and honest about having been through.

But the truth is, my darkest period of depression and suicidal thoughts, came crashing down as a result of bullying. Yes, traumas from childhood had compounded, but the abuse and constant harassment I endured day-to-day in junior high school, was what finally led me to that ultimate feeling of hopelessness.

It’s easy as an adult to say “kids are mean, girls are awful” and blow off terrible behaviour as a part of growing up, but that’s just not easy to explain to a teenager who’s being bullied. But tell that to the parents of Tyler Clementi, Amanda Todd or Rehtaeh Parsons.

Puberty came late for me, I was a flat-chested teenager with too much eyebrow, too little makeup and definitely no clue. Perhaps that sounds like I gave bullies a lot to work with, but what ultimately led to my dance with darkness was a silly junior high breakup, so insignificant in the grand scheme of life, but at that time it was everything.

I was made out to be the bad guy in this scenario, in a huge way. What resulted was months and months of verbal abuse of the worst kind. Not just from people I never considered friends, but people I had hung out with hundreds of times, my classmates and my confidantes. Notes in my locker, screams down the hallways, huge letters inked across chalkboards on my way into class.

“Amber is a slut.”

“Fugly.”

“Flat bitch.”

It was never-ending, and it was absolutely horrible.

What many suicide survivors will tell you, is that it’s not necessarily about wanting to die, it’s about not wanting to live. Or at least, not wanting to live life the way it was. Perhaps this is the reason I didn’t “try hard enough” to take my life that day, but nonetheless, I had a rope around my neck. I tied a noose, and the other end of the rope around a metal pole in our unfinished basement. I walked around that pole until the rope slowly tightened on my neck. When I was teetering on unconsciousness, I ran back the other way, unraveling it.

It took that moment of panic, looking possible death in the face, that I was finally led to come to my parents with a plea for help. I was honest. Honest about what I was suffering through, with my emotions, and my plaguing thoughts.

At that moment I stepped into the world of hope and healing for the first time, and I’m so thankful I did.

For #PinkShirtDay, I have a few thoughts for those who witness bullying, are victim to it, or are causing it:

  • Don’t fall into the ‘eat or be eaten’ mentality. You don’t have to victimize someone else to avoid being bullied. I fell for this trap once as well. Remember there is a human being on the other end of your words, how would you feel?
  • Tell someone. Anyone. Tell a parent, teacher, counsellor, friend—anyone you trust.
  • Stand up. Make that person who’s being bullied aware that you are someone who cares.
  • Share. Being vulnerable is what creates change, and it’s a ripple effect.

“Whenever one person stands up and says, “Wait a minute, this is wrong,” it helps other people do the same.” — Gloria Steinem

— Written by Amber Craig (follow on Twitter)

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The Ogden Legion (Branch #154) in Calgary unfortunately had to close its doors this year due to a lack of membership, but they are leaving an incredible legacy behind. On December 8, 2015, the Ogden Legion handed out $2.2 million in donation cheques to 20 Calgary non-profits and charities, and the Breaking Free Foundation was incredibly honoured to be one of them!

Members of the Breaking Free Foundation board were in attendance at a presentation ceremony this week, where we were given an amazing donation of $100,000! Being in our first year of operation, this donation is a game-changer for us, as we’ll be able to roll out our much-anticipated Therapy Grant Program.

If you’re unfamiliar with our Therapy Grant Program, it allows us to provide free trauma therapy to Albertans. We screen and select the best trauma-trained therapists across our province, and match them with applicants who need mental health treatment. Our biggest goal, is to make trauma treatment accessible for everyone, regardless of economic status.

If you’ve been following the news in Alberta lately, it’s no secret our citizens are in desperate need of access to mental healthcare: domestic violence, mental health problems and suicides are all on a steep incline in our province this year. Trauma affects everyone, and comes in thousands of forms from abuse and combat to disease, death, divorce, addiction—the list is endless. This $100,000 donation allows us to help so many more people, and we’re so grateful for the amazing people at the Ogden Legion for thinking of BFF.

19 other amazing local non-profits received donation cheques as well, here’s the list:

  • Boys and Girls Club of Calgary
  • Made by Momma
  • Ogden House Senior Citizen’s Club
  • Alzheimer Society of Calgary
  • Association for the Rehabilitation of the Brain Injured
  • BC and Alberta Guide Dogs Program
  • Stopbully.com
  • Alberta Animal Rescue Society (AARCS)
  • Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse
  • Calgary Poppy Fund
  • Calgary YWCA
  • Legacy Place Society
  • Little Warriors
  • Meow Foundation
  • Millican-Ogden Community Association
  • Ogden Legion Pipe Band Association
  • Prairie Sky Equine Assisted Therapy
  • Project P.A.L
  • Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre

Huge thank you again to the Ogden Legion, we look forward to serving the trauma community for many years to come! For more information on our Therapy Grant Program, see here. You can reach BFF via email or contact us anytime on Facebook or Twitter.