Reprinted from "Housing and Homelessness" issue of Visions Journal, 2007, 4 (1), p. 23
My journey through the mental health system began when I was 12 years old. My mother died, and I took an overdose. There was sexual abuse in our family by my father and his friends. I turned my father in to the police for sexual assault regarding my younger brother and sister. I hated my father for the trauma he caused me. I never did recover from that trauma. I had three overdoses by the time I was 14.
When I was older, I had a battle with street drugs and started drinking a lot. There are a lot of years that are blank due to heavy drinking. I've been obsessed with taking my life. I didn't plan to live past 20.
Due to excess drinking and drugs, I've often been without a place to live. Due to mental health issues, I've slept in parking lots. One place I lived in had bullet holes in the windows.
I had no self-worth. I felt lower than a snake. I remember staying in a shelter where I was too scared to sleep because I might be killed in my sleep. When I was living on the street in Toronto, I got pneumonia, but was too stubborn to get help with a place to live. I was obsessed with taking my life so I wouldn't feel so trapped. So my life would no longer be painful.
I got so messed up that I cared about nothing. My family wanted nothing to do with me. But on January 31, 1978, my sister's youngest daughter was beaten to death in Winnipeg. That was the point when my life started to turn around
I had to get help dealing with the trauma of my niece dying. I had blamed myself for her death and for other traumas that had happened in my life. I stopped drinking and doing drugs.
Today I have a good life. I've become closer to my family. I still have some rocky times - have been in hospital with life-threatening illness - but most times my life is very fulfilling. I live in a nice clean one-bedroom apartment, paying market-value rent. And I work part-time at a recycling depot, which is very helpful.
I don't want to forget where I came from. I will always be open to helping someone. I hope this writing might help.
About the author
Leonard lives in Penticton. He hopes that by sharing his story he can help others.