'The Person Who Did That is Not Who I am Today'

I walked into Tim Hortons and it was not as I remembered.

There were big screens near the cash registers and the décor inside was totally different.

The coffee? Well, that was just as I remembered. I ordered two.

At that point in my life it had been four years since I had bought a coffee on my own.

I live with Schizophrenia and battle addiction to drugs and alcohol.

I killed my grandmother while in a state of psychosis.

That last sentence might be a tough one to read for some people. And, I understand that. But, please know my grandmother was a great lady who was a big part of my life. I loved her very much.

I spent time in jail before I was found Not Criminally Responsible and entered the forensic mental health system. I then started to receive treatment for my illness at the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care in Penetanguishene before coming to Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores) in Whitby.

Forgiving myself for what I did when I was severely unwell has not been easy. In fact, it’s an ongoing process that I work on each day. But, the person who did that is not who I am today.

Despite being able to go to school, earn a degree and find employment, I was a mess for most of my teenage and adult life.  I was severely ill and I wasn’t getting the help I needed. I used drugs and alcohol to cope. My life was in a constant downward spiral.

I am now in recovery and ready to be successful in life. Each day I am motivated by the memory of my grandmother to continue to live a healthy life. I am going to school, I want to work and I want a future. I have been given a second chance at life and I want to capitalize on it.

As I prepare to re-enter the community on a more permanent basis, I feel I have the tools to make it. I feel that way because since I arrived at Ontario Shores I have been preparing for the day I leave.

When I first came to Ontario Shores I was confined to my unit. As my health improved so did my opportunities. I remember my first Ontario Review Board (ORB), which occurs annually and monitors the progress of patients in the forensic mental health system, at Ontario Shores. They gave me directly supervised community privileges.  I was so excited and nervous at the same time. Being able to go outside and walk to a coffee shop with staff motivated me to keep working hard on my recovery. That first trip to Tim Hortons gave me a taste of life again and I wanted more.

At my next ORB, I was able to demonstrate an even greater ability to manage my mental health and I was given community access under the supervision of my mother, who has been steady and supportive throughout my recovery journey.

A year later, as my recovery continued and my motivation to move forward in life strengthened, I was given indirectly supervised community privileges.

It’s been a long road, but I now attend church groups, coffee houses and other community events on my own. Soon, I will be living in the community and not at Ontario Shores.

I have freedom I once thought I would never have again. But more importantly, I am prepared to not only enjoy this freedom, but to make the most of it.

Like anybody, I have goals and dreams. But unlike when I was at my lowest point with my mental illness and substance abuse, I now feel like I have the tools and support to go after them.

Mental illness is not cut and dry. I have days that are better than others. But I know myself better than I ever have before and I am accountable to myself to maintain my health.

I am also motivated to be successful by my grandmother.  I am determined to make the most of my life in her memory.