Just because no one else can heal or do your inner work for you doesn’t mean you can, should, or need to do it alone.

Lisa Olivera

The length of stay at the women’s emergency shelter is 21 days. The Bear and I were allowed to stay for 26 days while we looked for a housing solution. I was fortunate that one of the counsellors filled out a referral to a second stage women’s facility for us. Women and children were permitted to stay for 12 months for low rent but a condition of tenancy was weekly group and individual therapy.

I could do that. I needed to do that.

So we moved in to the furnished apartment and I immediately started therapy. Over the course of the twelve months I attended group counselling with other women who came from different situations; domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse, homelessness. As diverse as our situations were, we all needed the same thing; help. We worked on self esteem, recognizing abuse cycles, financial and life skills, and relationship building. I threw myself into each session and thrived amongst this tribe of women.

Individual counselling was not as easy. It’s hard looking at yourself and the part that you’ve played in your own circumstances. It’s hard to dissect every move you’ve made and try to find a way to grow in a positive direction. I learned that my childhood and my relationship with my father influenced the choices I made in my partners. I wish that I could say that this knowledge kept me from finding myself in similar relationships in future years but it didn’t. I would continue to make the same mistakes for a period of time.

For 12 months we hit a comfortable routine. Take the Bear to the day home, go to work. Pick up the Bear and head home. Individual therapy on Tuesdays and Thursdays and group therapy on Wednesdays. Supported by this routine and my amazing counsellors, coupled with an increase in my Celexa, I began to wade out of my depression. Where I had felt like a failure as a mother for having a ruined marriage, I started to embrace the seemingly impossible job of being a single mother. Every day I seemed to gain steam, find more energy, be more present as a parent.

At the end of our stay, I felt prepared for the next step. I found us a main floor duplex and we moved in, scraping together furniture and essentials along the way. The next few years would hold its challenges but I feel like I really flourished. I had a good job, a house, a car and an amazing daughter. We crafted, we had adventures and we made a cozy life. We volunteered, ran in 2km and 5km races. I played on a softball team, played soccer and even road in the Cure to Conquer Cancer. I couldn’t have accomplished those things without the counselling that I received at the second stage facility.

Therapy is a form of self-care. It’s a proactive; protecting your mental health, building tools and strategies to fight off depression or treat other illnesses. Audre Lorde once said, ‘Self-care is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.’. For a long time I felt selfish whenever I took time for myself, spending money on therapy, because that was time and resources that I felt that I could be spending on other people. But what I now know is that for me to keep my Bipolar disorder at bay, I need a combination of medication, therapy and self care. Asking for help is neither selfish or weak and I can’t fight this battle alone.

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