My cat Macy is my closest companion. When she first landed in my lap, she was a monster—and seven years later I’ve trained her to be the perfect roommate. I worry about her health now that she’s getting old though. I had a scare recently where I thought I would have to put her down because I couldn’t pay for her care. It tore me apart thinking about not being able to save her, and losing my closest friend. But living on ODSP makes that really difficult. And the folks at ODSP have been rude to me before—they definitely don’t care about my cat!
Until about a year ago, I had a volunteer supporter. She helped me with getting around and with some everyday tasks. We’d go out for coffee together. We learned a lot from each other. I’m on the list for a new one now, but they need more volunteers. One thing she taught me was how to cook. She showed me how to make clay pot rice, and she gave me the pot I needed too! I’ve always enjoyed cooking, and I really like having Chinese food when I do get to eat out, so it was perfect. My Mom is in her 90s, but she still drives. We’re really close and she’s so important to me. Sometimes she’ll come over and I’ll cook for her. Next time she comes over, I’m making Chinese food.
I have a long list of physical and mental health issues. I’ve gone into the hospital at times, and the nurses are hesitant to come and see me, because they’ve read my charts. Then they get in and say “Oh, you’re not who I expected to see”. I’ve been a victim of stigma many times. I was going to a peer support group once and they spread it around town that I was bipolar schizophrenic. I gave up on going to group after that. I have friends from childhood who still don’t know about any of my mental health issues, because I’m not sure how they’d react. A few decades ago I went for a hospital stay and they gave me a diagnosis for one of my mental health issues, but didn’t actually tell me about it. They just assumed that they’d see me again soon, because I couldn’t stay out of the hospital for long. It was a decade before I found out.
I worked for years without a sick day, doing a paper route. I was strategic—I knew all of the places where I could stop and rest or use the washroom—and bad days it would take me two or three times as long. Now, I don’t know why I worked so hard to make so little money. When I finally applied for ODSP they didn’t believe that I was sick. “You worked a paper route” they said. And they gave me grief over a snowmobile that I supposedly had the deed to. Of course, I didn’t have the snowmobile—I’d lost it when I’d left my husband. I hate whenever I have to go to the ODSP office. I have lots of stories about how mean they’ve been to me over the years. Now at least I have a worker who comes with me and backs me up—she’s my advocate.
Cover up and a Scarf
I have been a victim of domestic violence. My husband used to beat me. He would play mind games with me too. For instance, he would hide a pair of scissors or something and then ask me where it was. It was never where I’d left it. And then he would verbally and physically abuse me when I couldn’t find it. I’d think I was losing my marbles. I lost touch with most of my friends during that time. He wouldn’t let me go out and see them. I found out later, after I left, that my bank thought I was dead. My kids’ teacher thought I was dead. He’d told them I had passed, and no one had batted an eye.
One of the things I am most proud of is leaving my abusive husband. If I had stayed, he would have killed me. I took him on in court and won. He was arrested. It took a lot of work for me to get over that and move on. When I left, I left my children. They still haven’t forgiven me for walking out on them and for what I did to their dad. They don’t talk to me. I wish things were different, but I have no regrets. I focus now on making the most of each day and living my life to the fullest. I’ve been close to death many times before, so I know each day matters.
I am resourceful and smart. Ever since I was little, people have been telling me I’m not. Growing up and being from the country, people said I was a dumb country kid. Now, my more successful brothers say I’m dumb. Only my worker and my mom are in my corner. In the past year, I’ve started volunteering and it’s something I’m really good at. I’m sharing what I’ve learned and teaching other people. I was in hospital recently because I was sick, and I’m working hard to get better so that I can study to become an even better teacher and leader.