Discovering her life purpose
“Connection is about the staff at the mental health care program. Some of them have known me since I was 18. They could have easily walked away or washed their hands of me and they didn’t. I’m here today because of them.”
For most of her life, Kersten had been searching for a lifeline and a purpose to wake up each morning. She found it with the help of a 12-step program and St. Joseph’s mental health care program.
She credits the connection she developed with staff in the mental health care program with turning her life around.
“I owe a lot of my progress in life to the staff at Parkwood and the Mental Health Program,” she says.
As a young child Kersten was bullied, teased and beat up in school. She started fighting back, which ended up spiraling out of control.
At age 15, she faced her first addiction – self-harm. At the time, she says, the physical pain was much easier to deal with than the emotional pain. That same year, she was admitted to hospital as an inpatient, later spending time in juvenile detention and then in adult custody.
She would soon turn to drugs and alcohol, and attempted suicide twice.
It became a revolving door for Kersten. She wanted to stop but didn’t know how; she would get high, become psychotic, spend five weeks in the hospital, get out and within the first couple of days get high again.
“I wanted to die but what I really wanted was to stop hurting and no one cared enough to find out why. My story never changed – it just got longer.”
Today, she has been clean and sober for two and a half years, is a mental health care advocate, and she is rebuilding her relationship with her parents, brother and 96-year-old grandmother.
As part of her treatment, she participates in the Mental Health Flex Program (adult ambulatory–outpatient consultation and collaborative care), which includes regular check-ins with her psychologist and psychiatrist. She is also part of the Parkwood Institute Mental Health Care Patient Council, she is a care partner at St. Joseph’s and a member of the advisory committee with the Community Outreach and Support Team London.
Her aim is to share her experience with professionals to improve the mental health system while helping others who struggle and offer them the hope that change is possible.
Between her psychiatrist, psychologist and staff in the mental health program, combined with her 12-step program, and her volunteer work on various committees, Kersten feels confident with the person she’s become. She feels proud when she looks in the mirror and she has the scars on her arms as reminders of where she was and how far she has come.
“I’m living the life today that I once dreamed of,” she grins. “Change is possible. Don’t ever give up hope.”
Give a Gift. Brighten a Life.
This Season of Celebration, we are on a mission to ensure that everyone in our community continues to receive compassionate care now and well into the future.
St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation is raising funds to purchase essential equipment and resources including blanket warmers, cuddle beds, slings for lifts, TVs in waiting rooms, pianos and personal care products for inpatients. These are important items that focus on the total patient experience while receiving care at St. Joseph’s Health Care London.