Katie is 26 years old and lives in DMHS medium-support housing, having recently graduated from high support. She attends school and volunteers at the Gate 3:16 drop-in centre. A battle with schizophrenia and addiction led to a decade of struggle, but she has been resilient and is in good mental health and pursuing her life goals. Here is her story.
I grew up in Oshawa with my grandparents. My mom was present in my life but she had me at a very young age and had her own struggles. My grandparents provided a loving and stable home growing up, and I’ll always be thankful. In fact, they recently moved quite close to me and I am glad to have regular contact with them.
When I was very young, I experienced a lot of social anxiety, in part due to bullying. I dealt with this consistently until I left high school at age 16. It was then that I first moved into supportive housing, through Chimo Youth and Family Services.
I was around 19 and living again with my grandparents when I started to develop more serious mental health problems. I was highly emotional and my mood could swing from high to low and back again. I struggled with addiction to hard drugs and became highly suspicious and aggressive towards others. I became estranged from my grandparents for a couple of years. I felt deeply alone and unsure of my future. I felt like I was just existing, barely holding on.
This continued for about 3 years, at the end of which time, I found myself homeless, living on the streets. I was making bad choices for myself, and was left with few options. It was then that I first connected with Gate 3:16 Drop-In Centre, where I now volunteer. They were a tremendous support but I was still in bad shape. During a psychotic episode, I assaulted some people, and was taken to jail.
My Mom became a hugely valuable resource to me at this time, and advocated for me before the courts to be transferred to Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences for treatment. After an assessment period, the doctor found me to be Not Criminally Responsible for my actions, and got me into long-term inpatient support. I gained insight into my situation and stopped fighting and making bad decisions. I feel like I surrendered – I stopped resisting help and pushing others away, and consciously chose a new path. After a couple of years, I was ready to move to community-based housing, through Durham Mental Health Services.
At DMHS, I learned many important skills, such as how to cook and maintain my living space, I got active and involved in a day program, and just generally took responsibility for my choices and my life. My goals were to get healthy and to be independent, and with their help I am on that road. Everyone I’ve encountered there has been supportive and has helped me grow as a person and find hope.
I’m now finishing up my high school diploma through Vocational Services at Ontario Shores. I’ve made many friends, and worked on repairing old friendships. I’m finding a safe and supportive home in my current residence, and I’m on target with my next goal, which is to move to low-support housing and to get a part-time job.
I feel blessed – like I’ve been in the right place at the right time meeting the right people. My journey hasn’t be easy but I’m on a good road right now and it’s where I’m going to stay. The staff have been very supportive, compassionate and helpful. I’m thankful for all the help and support I’ve had along the way.