My name is Sandra Boulianne and this is my story.
I have been struggling with mental health for a part of my life. Today, I am speaking out loud about it. I am going to tell you why I have been struggling with mental health and what kind of events brought me here. I am also going to talk about my feelings towards mental health and how I did survive after all. I will also outline the professional services I had access to. Finally, I am going to talk about how important it is to speak openly about mental health in society. The effects and benefits this has had on my life. Through my story you will discover a broken person who chose to survive and continue to live the life she wants. You will see another angle about living with mental health. I hope that my story will have an impact on society and send a message that if we stick together as a team, we can change the stigma surrounding mental health.
Let’s begin with the events that brought me here. When I was 5 years old I moved to a new town and joined a new school in mid-primary. The bullying started there. It was a very hard time for me to make new friends, because I was new and shy. Throughout elementary school it was the same kids with the same pattern. I was going back home after school in my bedroom and spending time crying. I felt shame. High school was the same and the bullying and intimidation continued until I graduated. Every day was a battle, a fight with people to try and make things right. I was shy and the moment I opened my mouth to say something there was someone laughing at me behind my back or saying nasty stuff. Intimidation and bullying are very hard on mental health. I asked for help and I did not see any changes. I started to ignore and bottle my emotions inside of me without saying a word. This is when I started to wear a mask to hide what was going inside.
I started dating boys and discovered my sexuality very young. I was looking for love. I wanted to fit in. Sex, drugs and alcohol were my coping skills at that point. My first suicide attempt when I was between 17 and 18 years old in college. I did not talk about it. I turned the page and started over. I felt that nobody wanted to know what I was thinking or why I was in so much pain. I moved to a new county and I started a new career. One and a half years later I was burnt out and in a depression. I saw a doctor in outpatients but I did not want any medications at this point because I thought they were not good for me. I was listening to others and not myself. Once again, I turned the page and started over. I did not talk about it with anyone.
In August 2009, I started dating my man. We are now engaged, a wedding is set for summer 2020 and we have three young and beautiful children. During the first year with my man I got pregnant but I had a miscarriage at about nine weeks. I was devastated. The only thing that I wanted the most was gone. I was blaming myself; it was my fault, I did not take care of it. I killed my baby. I was actually wrong. I started counseling with the Military Family Resource Centre in Bagotville. My social worker helped me a little bit with grieving the loss of my baby. We talked a lot about that painful event. With time, I finally accepted it and moved on.
I returned to a happy life with my man. I got pregnant again and I delivered my first baby boy in May 2011. It was a very hard delivery, both physically and mentally. A big part of it was because my man was away in Winnipeg for his work.Two months later, my man came back and met his new son. I was experiencing post trauma because of the hard delivery. This caused me to have A hard time with mood swings and my relationships. We moved in Nova Scotia in August 2011. I kept bottling my emotions inside me. Explosive mood swings were there everyday. I was struggling with my first and second language, which made adjusting to my new life difficult. I am now bilingual, after lots of work, effort and support.
I got pregnant again and delivered my second baby in September 2012, a beautiful girl. Six months later I realized that I had post partum depression after a trip to Quebec City. I had been visiting my family and I was not feeling good at all. I wrote a letter to explain how I was feeling and how lost I was. I explained how it was so dark inside of me, how I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. The only thing that was keeping me alive were my two babies, my anchors. My man suggested that I go see a doctor. I talked about my darkness and I asked for help. I wanted to change and get better. I started to take anti-depressants and see a psychologist. It helped but I was still struggling with my mental health and I was also still using alcohol as a coping skill. By the way, alcohol is a depressant. I needed to get to the bottom of my problem. I was still keeping things bottled up inside. My man was working a lot and away sometimes so I was home alone with two babies. I was parenting at my best but it was hard. I was also very tired. Being a stay at home mom is a full time job and it is actually very hard on you.
I was just getting out of there when I got pregnant again. I delivered my third and last baby in January 2015, another beautiful baby boy. I did not take any chances and I started back on my medications and counseling with my psychologist right away after my delivery. I got back to the same pattern relationships and parenting were an issue for me. Since I have such a hard time dealing with my own self it affects my family and the people around me. I was getting tired of everything. The only things I wanted to do was drinking alcohol and smoking pot to forget and try to have some fun. I wanted to forget and escape my responsibilities of being an adult and a parent, at least for a couple hours. I was drinking a couple beers at night to relax. Weekends were used for partying.
On Friday the 13th, May 2016 I went to a party in a private house with some people I was hanging out with. The worst happened. That night I was sexually assaulted by someone I knew. I pressed charges against him. I left home for at least a month to receive treatment.. I could not stay at home and the followings days were horrible and very hard to handle. I was sick mentally. I had anxiety and panic attacks pretty much every day. My brain was all messed up. I was in crisis. I wanted to die so bad, I felt hopeless and so much pain. I was not able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I told my man that if he does not do anything to help me I was going to kill myself. My man found the crisis line through the internet. He called them and we got referred to the mobile unit.They told us to go to emergency. There, I saw a psychiatrist and got admitted to the mental health short stay unit at Queen Elizabeth II in Halifax. In less than a week I learned a couple breathing exercises and some leisure activities to keep my mind busy. I was having less anxiety and panic attacks. During a group meeting I got a referral to start a mental health day treatment program for six weeks. When I left the mental health short stay unit I stayed in the emergency apartment in Windsor Park through the Military Family Resources Centre of Halifax. My dad came from Quebec and gave me his support for two weeks. After that I stayed at a couple of friend’s apartments for another two weeks, then I went back home with my family. I did the six weeks program. It was amazing! That program actually changed my life. I stopped wearing a mask and trying to fit in. I also realized that I had an addiction and I needed to quit drugs and alcohol to be able to get better and have better mental health. I have been sober since July 21, 2016.
I was back home in my community with my family. I saw my family doctor and got a diagnosis of Borderline personality disorder with histrionic traits. I was devastated but not surprised. I read about the diagnosis and my life was finally making sense. Now I know why I was acting like that and why I was looking for love and afraid of being abandoned. A lot of questions were answered. At this point, I wanted to change for the best and this is what I am still doing.
The mental health and professional services that I accessed ha a huge impact on my life and my family in a good way. I am using negative events and turning them into positive. I started to change with professional help when I was admitted to the mental health short stay unit in May 2016. Three days after my abuser was arrested I was all over the place, I could not think straight. I was forgetting who I was talking to and what I did the days before. I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was dreaming darkness. I was having nightmares, night after night. It was awful and very hard. I was alone inside and I did not feel safe. I wanted to die because the pain that I was living through was hurting me so much and I wanted that to end. The pain was worse than all my deliveries. When I thought about that night. I only saw darkness; I saw myself raped and dead. My abuser killed my soul. What was the point of living if I did not have a soul? I was so messed up and so lost that I could not take care of anyone or anything. My children lost their mommy. I knew I needed help.
For the month that I was at the mental health short stay unit I was trying to find a way to recover so I could be back home with my man and my children. Talking with others about what happened and what I was going through helped me to find a little bit of hope and some strength to go back home to the Valley. I was still using drugs and alcohol to cover it up. Pretty much every time I was drinking I had a panic attack.
My man was supporting me every day. He was sending me positive and lovely messages. That gave me a lot of strength while I was in Halifax working on myself. The Greenwood Military Family Resource Centre helped my man and my family through a lot of different angles. I will always be grateful for the help we got from them. I was going through a roller coaster of emotions and the court system had not even started yet. After the mental health short stay unit, a few breathing techniques and some medications I was able to mange my anxiety a little bit better. When I was home I was ready to change my life and get better. I had some strength and support from my community and my family.
I was also admitted to the mental health day treatment program at Queen Elizabeth II in Halifax. However, because of my addiction and bad coping skill I was discharged after four days. I went back home angry and I realized that I needed to reflect on my life to figure out my next step. I asked myself “What do I have to change to be able to heal?” The first step was to be sober. I quit drugs and alcohol and I started the program again. I knew that I needed to do it for me and for my family. My children and my man deserve a healthy mommy and a healthy spouse.
The day treatment program changed my life for the best. I loved it so much. I wish that we could learn more about coping skills, leisure activities, relationships with self and others and how to manage our emotions in school. Also, talking with my family, my friends and other women who were sexually abused helped me to find strength and hope. I realized that I am a survivor and a warrior. It was time to change my life for the best.
My first meeting at the day treatment program was with two psychiatrists and my case coordinator. For the first time in my whole life I finally felt understood and I felt good. I was feeling that relief coming out. I was grieving. During the program, I realized that taking care of myself first and dealing with my own struggles would help me to accept and let go my past. This makes it easier to have good and healthy relationships with others, especially the ones you love. I am taking care of myself now. I have realized that making myself happy has a direct effect on my man and my children. We can now be happy and in love together. Six weeks later I had learned a lot of new skills and I was ready to have a healthy relationship with myself and my family. I am so proud of the hard work that I did. It is very sad that I needed to get to the worst before I found out that I needed professional help to deal with my mental health problems. I have gained a lot, though. I gained self-esteem, self-compassion and healthy relationships. I know now how important it is to have boundaries in my life to protect myself
Back home in my community I am see my social worker and meet with good friends at the Greenwood Military Family Resource Centre. The Greenwood Military Family Resource Centre is my second home; it is my second family. I will always be thankful for their support.
When I got my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder with Histrionic traits, I was happy about finally being diagnosed because I was able to start working on myself and find the best solutions to know how to live with it. I am still reading about it and accessing professional services. I found out that the more you know about yourself the easier it gets to accept and move on. I learned that there is no shame when it comes to opening yourself up to the world and talking about your mental health problems or about your terrible events. I am also thankful for every single person who gave me support in any way. I am not going to say names, because I don’t want to forget anyone. You know who you are and what you’ve done to help me out.
Positive energy is so powerful and much stronger than negative energy. Positive energy has benefits on self and others. I can finally let go and be at peace with my inner soul. This is what matters the most. I learned that when you ask for help you can always get your power back and be in control of yourself again.
In this last part of my article, I will explain and give my opinion about how important it is to talk openly about mental health in society. What kind of support we can have when we shared our stories. When I wanted to change my life and make it better, I did not know how. I had no resources And lacked the skills to do so.. I did not know what kind of professional support I could have access. I knew that if I broke my leg I could go to the hospital. What if I am not feeling good inside, what am I suppose to do or where can I go? People talk about physical health but not about mental health. If society was more open about mental health and talked about the kind of professional services available it will be much better. The professional services I received were amazing. I wish that I had known about them before I got my diagnosis. Maybe I would not have those struggles learning about healthy relationships and building boundaries in my life. I have learned to focus on something more positive than partying with toxic people. I am not blaming myself for this.
I am speaking out loud about mental health and my experiences. I hope that by expressing my emotions and sharing my feelings that I can help people in the future. I want to make changes. Society is big and powerful and I want to use my experiences to help people get better. I want to invite people to use this article and talk about themselves. I found out that when I shared my stories, I gained support and it helped me and I helped others at the same time. I accept what happened to me and I am now moving on. I can be in peace with my own self. When I talked about what I am going through I gained empathy and new friendships. How nice it is to have someone you can talk to, to have someone who understands more than anyone else what you are going through. Having support from friends, family and professional services is amazing and powerful. When you help yourself and speak out loud you help others as well-no matter what. The stigma surrounding mental health has to go away. Together, we can make changes to society by speaking out loud, and not just for one day but everyday. Mental health is as important as physical health.
In conclusion, I am speaking out loud about my struggles with my mental health. I am not ashamed of it. I am Borderline Personality Disorder with Histrionic traits and I am proud of the hard work I am doing to be able to manage it. I am working on myself every single day by talking openly about it. I am thankful for all the support that I have gained since then. Now it is time to focus on myself and I know by doing it I can help others. If we stick together and we share our stories or speak out loud about mental health, the stigma will start to go away and this is what we want. Society is the key for making changes happen. I would like to invite people read about the semicolon project. It is so inspirational such as the young lady on TED talk who spoke about how people talk about sexual abuse online. She inspired me and I hope that I can inspire someone else.