First, I would like to start my introduction by thanking you for stopping by and taking the time to get to know me better. If you have just pre-ordered my book “Rock Bottom has a Basement” then let me thank you twice. I can assure you, that the journey to finishing this memoir, has equally been one of the hardest and most rewarding experiences of my lifetime.
A little background- I am many ”things”....but first and foremost I am a Mom and a Spouse. Family is the driving force behind everything I do, and I want to thank my partner Wojtek, my daughter Kennedy and my son Nathaniel for their continual love, support, and patience while I accomplished this goal.
I am 44 years young and have lived in Canada my entire life. I am so blessed to reside in the beautiful Fraser Valley in the Province of British Columbia. I am a Business Consultant/Economic Developer by day and a writer, basket case, cupcake fiend, animal lover, friend, introvert, over-thinker, kindness commander, activist, and so many other complexities in my personal life.
I have always had a passion for writing. Using a pen and paper (and now my laptop) to cope with stress has been my escape for much of my life. I have written songs, poems, short stories, and even some pretty impressive late night texts that could have been interpreted by the receiver as a short novel. I excelled in writing in school, while often struggling in other classes. I didn’t know it as I child, but I had ADD. I was undiagnosed until this past year and discovering this really put a lot of things into perspective for me. Escaping through writing helped me so much as a child. The imagination is a remarkable gift and it saved me in my youth and helped me escape when I needed to.
In my career I have been involved in Education and Economic Development for over 25 years. I have and continue, to dedicate a great amount of my time to the development of business and educational opportunities that enrich the lives of indigenous youth.
Early in my career, I worked my way up from the receptionist at my first “real” job, to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in just 10 years. I accomplished this the old fashioned way, through hard work, dedication, and without even knowing that this was where I was heading. Once I got there, something in me shifted. The less time I spent with youth, and the more time I spent in the boardroom, I seemed to lose my sense of my purpose. My true passion was and always will be helping others and being in the trenches. The lessons I learned along the way, were such a huge part of me becoming who I am today and continue to to be invaluable. I was blessed to have many mentors to teach me along the way and I strive to provide that same mentorship for others.
I was raised a single child in a modest home. Although my Mom and biological Father were married, they divorced when I was 1 and I did not meet this man in person until my early 20’s. He paid child support my whole life, until the day I turned 18. My mother never had one bad word to say about this man and I always respected that about her. I wouldn’t learn that I had a brother who had been given up for adoption (when my Mom was only 16) until just a few months before she died. I tried my best to find him before she passed away, but didn‘t accomplish this mission until a year or so after she was gone. Meeting my brother was one of the most significant moments of my life. With him, came 4 beautiful nieces and nephews and an amazingly brave and compassionate sister in law. I also have a half brother and sister on my Dad’s side.
My early childhood was great. I grew up at the race track and we went camping every chance we got. I learned everything about cars and early life skills from my step father Pat. To this day, my favorite day of the week is “Race Day” Sunday’s, watching Formula 1 from my living room and cheering on the greatest driver who ever lived-Lewis Hamilton. My Mother and Step-Father would later separate when I was almost 7. My Mother soon met someone else, and life as you know it changed forever. The next decade of my life was impacted by the fact that both my mother and her spouse were alcoholics. This lifestyle led to them declaring bankruptcy twice, and our family having to move, which meant I would have to change schools almost yearly. With alcohol came physical abuse for my mother, and years of verbal abuse for me. I had no choice to leave home at the young age of 14. After sleeping on friends couches for almost a year, I was finally emancipated from my Mother at 15. After what seemed like hundreds of tests and assessments, I was able to prove to Social Services that I was capable of living on my own, narrowly avoiding the foster care system.
I would not move back home officially again, until I was 19 years old. My Mother was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in the mid 90’s (she had contracted it from a blood transfusion in 1974) and by the time I was 18, she was extremely sick. She was separated and alone by this time, and I knew I had to move home and take care of her. I stayed for 2.5 years until she passed away on May 21st, 1998 at 56 years old. I was only 21. I was working part time, caring for my Mom during the day, and going to University 3 nights a week. My Mother went into a coma at home due to liver failure. I am thankful that the last words I ever said to her were “I love you” that night before bed. Just two days prior, the hospital said she was not sick enough to be admitted. She and I both knew she didn’t have much time left.
I was always a tough cookie. I had dealt with my share of tragedies and loss at a young age, and somehow always managed to stay on the right path. I had street smarts from dodging my parents drunk friends at their parties and always having to take care of most things myself. I was able to cope with stress for the most part, and was going to do whatever it took for me to have a good life. I wanted a life to be proud of and prove to everyone that I could make it on my own. I knew when I was older that I wanted to be the best Mother I could be. That meant that I would protect and work hard to provide for my children. I was not going to make the same mistakes my mother made. The next ten years I worked my ass off every single minute of every single day.
The events that would take place over the next few years, would slowly impact me in ways that I could never have imagined. I bought my first house on my own at 25. I had a great job that I loved, two beautiful children, and had the same friends I had grown up with by my side. Unfortunately, a long run of unforseen and life altering events were about to take place and forever change who I was as a person.
It started in 2003. I had invested all of my savings into renovating my home into something magical. It had a small gym, a movie theatre, a karaoke room, a playroom for the kids, a new deck, and I was just so proud. I had literally just signed off on the renovations with the contractor, when the first flood occurred. I had gone to work for the day and when I came home, the basement was emerged in about a foot of water. I was devastated, but I had insurance and eventually it was covered and I was able to redo the work with in a few months. What I failed to do however, was fix the original issue that caused the flood in the first place. There were major issues with the septic system, but I was young and naive and didn’t know what was going on. Just weeks after the work was completed, my septic system failed again, and this time it was much worse. Insurance would not cover the loss, as it was caused by the same issue. I lost everything. Almost $100,000 of renovations, equipment, and personal possessions. Everything in the kids playroom, all family photos, furniture, my mind. It was all gone. I had to tear out everything. I was beside myself with angst, and started having nightmares about water and flooding. At times, I was scared to leave the house in fear it would happen again. I couldn’t let this get the best of me. I knew that I had worked too hard to let this all go. I was able to regroup finally after a month or two of crying and feeling sorry for myself. I found someone knowledgeable about septic systems and put in a whole new system and field. I took out a second mortgage on my home and put the pieces all back together. I borrowed almost $150,000, but had a plan in place to pay it off as quickly as possible and then started a few small businesses to earn some extra money. It was hard, but I was getting through it. Or so i thought.....
A few weeks later, we had a freak storm. It lasted a few days and we had been without power for much of it. The rain poured down on my metal roof like a waterfall and the wind howled like something out of a Stephen King movie (Little did I know that the attic was filling up with water and that a panel of my metal roof had blown off in the storm). Finally around midnight on day 3, the power came back on and I went to the kitchen to make some tea. I heard some cracking sounds coming from the attic above me and turned to look up at the ceiling. In a flash, and before I could think to move, the ceiling came crashing down around me. Water fell over me like a dunk tank and I fell hard to my knees. I was in utter disbelief. I crawled into my adjacent laundry room, soaking wet, shaking, and curled into a ball on the floor. I just stayed there for what felt like hours. I didn’t know what to do, who to call, and just hoped that this was a nightmare and soon I would wake up. Unfortunately this was not a nightmare. Three floods within 6 months and this was just the beginning of what would be my demise emotionally, financially, mentally and physically over the next 10 years.
It was about this time, that I was diagnosed with diabetes. I had been so sick and somehow it wasn’t caught during routine blood work in my pregnancy with my daughter. I was now for the first time really struggling as a single mother, my daughter had been diagnosed with a genetic disorder called Noonans Syndrome, I was battling severe health issues, I had more responsibility at work, and was taking on additional jobs to pay off loans to cover expenses and damages from the floods. I had gained a whopping 100lbs over the past couple of years since my first pregnancy and was having back issues so severe, I would be stuck on the floor, not able to get up for days, sometimes even weeks. There were days I wanted to die. No matter how hard I worked, I could no longer get ahead and I was sick and in pain. I was having more nightmares, and insomnia now was a part of my everyday life. My kids were the only thing that kept me getting up each day and fighting. They will never truly understand how they saved my life.
Over the next few years, I would leave my job that I loved so much. I would lose the people I loved the most, get married and divorced within 2 years, build tirelessly and then lose a business to a fire, continue to get sicker each day, and then tragically my closest friend, who I considered my Brother, would be murdered in 2011.
In my experience, there became a point where coping was no longer a matter of choice. No matter how strong I thought I was, that I no longer had control over my mind and body. Tragic events, trauma, and stress will eventually cause your brain to shut down and you can and likely will, lose the very core of who you once were if you dont make yourself a priority and get help. I eventually went to a place I wasn’t sure I would ever get out of....I had finally hit rock bottom. It was from there and in this place that I discovered that “Rock Bottom has a Basement“.
Throughout all of these life events, I barely told a soul about what was going on inside of me. I’m not sure I ever truly understood how significantly the events that had occurred in my life, had really impacted me. I started to write this book while I was in the deepest depths of my depression. I could no longer fly on airplanes, I couldn’t speak in public, file my taxes, I was off work on stress leave, I had to sell both of my homes, and could barely function or handle day to day tasks. Every ounce of energy and sanity I had left, went to making sure my children were ok. I cancelled every event I had said “yes” to at the last minute and eventually over time people stopped calling to see if I was ok. I was debilitated by fear and anxiety. It was crippling. I was riddled with guilt for not being there for people I knew that needed me, and so disappointed in myself for losing everything I had worked so hard to accomplish. I really was in a place so dark, that I could no longer see the light. I didn’t know it at the time, but starting this book would be such a pivotal turning point in my recovery. I was so isolated and didn’t know how to reach out. I awoke one morning, knowing that if I didn’t do something NOW, right at that moment, that this pain and anxiety was going to eat me alive. I had recently been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and had not told a soul what was really going on inside of me. I thought PTSD was something that weak people said they had because they couldn’t handle stress. Man was I wrong. My book will highlight my personal journey from childhood through to the significant events that led to PTSD. It will highlight how changing my perspective ultimately changed my life.
Determination and hope, continue to help me rebuild my life after trauma. By sharing my journey with you, I hope that I can not only continue to help myself, but allow others to learn from my experience. No matter how alone you might feel, please know that there are others out there battling things greater then you could ever imagine. When someone disappears from your life, please find them. When they don’t answer, try again. For anyone reading this who is suffering and wants their life back. You can and will get better. Be patient with yourself and with others. Talk to someone. Anyone. It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to say no. Be gentle. I wanted to prove to everyone that I was strong. I didn’t want to appear weak and certainly could never admit to myself or anyone else that I was struggling and feared I was failing. In the end, I was only failing myself. I am learning each day to love myself and know that if I don’t care for me, that I can’t continue to care for others.
One day at a time, one step at a time, and one truth at a time.
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Nate and Kennedy at Universal Studios