Upcoming Workshop: Neurobiology of Trauma

Marymound’s diverse youth care services offer urgent short-term and long-term care that help shape positive outcomes for children and youth in need.

Nicole was one of those children who accessed our youth care services at a pivotal time in her life.

Nicole’s story is about bravery, survival, connections, and a road to recovery that Marymound is proud to have played a part in. One of the most remarkable things is that Nicole wants to share her challenging story so she can help others. That in itself, is inspiring.

Nicole is a 28-year-old Cree woman who was placed in foster care at birth when tragedy took her mother’s life. Her first foster family would make her part of an extended family as ‘Aunt Tracey’ raised her until she was eight-years-old. She never knew her biological parents and only received some medical history about her birth mother, who suffered from schizophrenia. This mental illness would also have a profound effect on Nicole’s life.

At the age of eight, she was first admitted to the psych ward due to behavioural challenges she experienced. After a misdiagnosis, she was sent to an Indigenous family foster home to better understand herself and learn about her culture. Taken away from the only family she ever knew, Nicole struggled as she always thought of her first foster family as her ‘real family’ even though they weren’t Indigenous. From ages eight to 13, she suffered with depression because she missed her first family and as her depression grew, she was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and was again admitted to a psychiatric ward.

After this harrowing journey, Debbie (Aunt Tracey’s sister), took Nicole home at age 13 to be surrounded by familiar family connections and five siblings. “It was a life-saving experience to be back home with family who loved and supported me, says Nicole. “Even through my struggles, I have many positive memories playing games and travelling with my family.”

When her foster grandmother passed away, that triggered a significant spiral. “I lost it,” says Nicole. To deal with the trauma, she was returned to the psychiatric ward, eventually being sent to a group home at age 16. Lacking a sense of belonging and suffering from depression, her education suffered and she began putting herself in dangerous situations that required Nicole be sent to Marymound’s Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU).

“They were really kind to me, kept me calm, and set up goal-setting plans for me,” says Nicole. “They taught me how to live life better.”  For the next two years, she came and went from the CSU, stayed on weekends, or spent the night. Marymound’s CSU became a second home and safe place for Nicole – a constant in her life, with familiar faces offering regular support and direction.

To this day, Daryl at Marymound continues to be a very important person in Nicole’s life. He used to read to her and tell her funny jokes when she was younger, and when she got a little older, she recalls ordering Chinese food and playing Monopoly with him. “I always won!” says Nicole. She still has regular visits with Daryl – on Christmas, her birthday, or whenever she would like to see him.

At the same time she was being helped by Marymound as a teenager, Nicole also found an external therapist. “Even to this day, I seek out my therapist on a regular basis to help keep me on the road to recovery,” says Nicole.

By age 23, Nicole was properly diagnosed, and with the appropriate treatment, her outlook became more positive. Joining a support group in addition to all her positive connections, gave her comfort knowing she didn’t have to face her mental health challenges alone.

She currently lives independently in an apartment with her cat named Pepper and values the company of a couple of close friends. Nicole gives back to the community by volunteering at a nearby church for the last six years. She enjoys helping out in the kitchen and is known to be a very dedicated worker. She plans to finish high school and hopes to get a job in a community centre or working with pets one day. When she feels ready, Nicole hopes to enroll in post-secondary education to become a Blood Technician.

Nicole still has her day-to-day struggles, but she remains motivated to work towards positive and meaningful goals. She is an insightful, compassionate and courageous young woman who can reflect on her thoughts and feelings and is able to express a positive attitude toward her life and those closest to her.

Nicole hopes by sharing her story she will inspire others to share their experiences, encouraging them to reach out for the help and support they need. “Everyone has a story to tell, and you’ll never know if someone is struggling unless you ask them.”