Noreen is a quiet lady who sometimes feels uncomfortable in social settings. She was born in Guyana and came to Canada in 1972 with her great-aunt. She enjoys dancing, knitting and crocheting and she worked in Montreal as a home-care assistant helping take care of elderly individuals. Here is her story.
I left Montreal and moved to Ajax in 2012 to join my nieces who had relocated from Montreal a few years earlier. I lived with my niece and was supported by a pension. My niece was often visited by friends from Montreal and, being a quiet person, I found I could not handle these visits. I did all the cooking and I felt I was being taken advantage of. When I spoke about my concerns, it was an offense to everybody. All of a sudden there was tension in the family.
I just couldn’t handle the demands on me and the tension. I felt that I was getting sick over it. I was crying most of the time. I felt very isolated. I was not enjoying things that I had used to enjoy. I started getting blisters that I felt were stress-related. At that time, it was a lonely life.
These symptoms got so concerning to me that I went to the Ajax-Pickering Hospital for help. I asked if I could speak to a social worker and was introduced to DMHS’ Hospital-to-Home community mental health worker. I told her my circumstances and she brought me to check out the New Leaf Day Program.
When I first came, because I’m the type of person who doesn’t get involved in things on sight, I had to slowly check it out. I found I liked the people I found here and I started coming regularly. I met the Peer Support Specialists who ran the program. It was somewhere for me to go and be with people who I could associate with – people I could talk to, people who would not judge me. They didn’t know me but they accepted me. They showed me what I was missing in my family.
Sometimes when I would leave in the afternoon, I would think “Where am I going to? What am I going to do?” It was like leaving a family and going to be with strangers – not leaving strangers to be with family!
My new connection with New Leaf told me “You have to get up and go.” I would feel so good coming here. When I would go home, I would visit a local park and gather myself until I could say to myself, “OK, I am ready to face going home now.” I found the tension at home dropped and relationships improved.
The Hospital-to-Home workers were wonderful. In addition to setting me up with New Leaf, they helped me address all my needs. They referred me to a Seniors Home, where I applied for my own apartment.
At New Leaf, I had a chance to do activities I loved, including knitting and crocheting. I was also connected to other social clubs and with a church through my relationships with the individuals at New Leaf. New Leaf is like a second home for me. Being among people who could relate to my story, I could see that after all I was not that badly off.
I would tell anyone in need, “If you get a chance to get into New Leaf, it could change your life. You will decide if it is a good fit for you, but for me, it is the best thing that ever happened to me.”