Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Building a path out at The Inn

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

She arrives via taxi at the door of “The Inn”* in the early morning hours. Her two year old in tow, another child due in six months. One hand grips her child’s hand. In the other she carries a few plastic bags of belongings. That’s all she has.

She came to Canada a couple of years ago when she married her husband. His brother knew her father. It was all arranged. He came to her village to make her his bride. He’d been in Canada for several years and wanted a wife from his country of origin.

She didn’t know him. She didn’t know what the future held. But she knew that to stay in the famine and discord of her homeland would mean an uncertain and terrifying future.

Since being here she has barely been let out of their home. She cannot speak English. She has no friends. No family. No support.

At first, she takes the beatings her husband regularly doles out as part of being here. But then, he threatens her child. She cannot stay and does what women the world over do, every day, every night. She flees to save her child.

At ‘The Inn”, staff quickly kick into gear to find a translator. To create a safety barrier between this woman and child and her husband who has arrived to take them home. Though she cannot speak English, her desires are clear. She will not go.

A translator is found via a phone service. Staff work with other agencies, government reps and the translator to build a path to safety for the woman.

The Inn is a family emergency shelter. It does not have the same level of security as a domestic violence shelter and staff are concerned the husband will return. The woman, through the translator, is adamant. She wants to stay.

A plan is created and space is found for her on the second floor with the 7 other women and their children who are already staying there.

For now, she is safe.

Unless, the government steps in. Because that’s her new challenge.

When she fled her abusive husband she also left the man who was her immigration sponsor. Without him, her immigration status is in jeopardy.

Again, staff work with the translation service to find help. Legal Guidance is called in. The lawyers go to work.

For now, she is safe. From abuse. From deportation.

For now, she is receiving support. Her child is being provided early childhood development coaching to mitigate against the effects of so much uncertainty, so much fear, and the abuse he witnessed in his father’s home.

It is imperative, this work. To ensure his young mind is not permanently scarred, that his healthy development from childhood to adulthood is not impaired by the trauma, he must be given tools and opportunities to find healthy ways to express his emotions and grow into a loving man.

His mother still lives in fear and uncertainty. Will she and her child be allowed to stay in Canada? Will she be forced to leave her Canadian born son behind with his father? What is the future?

Stories like this unfold many times a month at Inn from the Cold. Families arrive seeking shelter, sanctuary, healing. They come with their children clutching a toy, their hands full of their few belongings, sometimes several suitcases. They have run out of places to go that will let them stay for a night or two. They have run out of options. They need support. Help. Guidance.

Family homelessness is not a choice. It is an outcome of diverse and challenging circumstances that lead children and their parent, or parents, to the Inn’s door. They don’t want to be there but once there, they quickly discover a place where they can sit with their children at a dinner table and feed them healthy meals. They find a place where help for their children is readily available. Where they can obtain parenting and vital life skills that will help them navigate their current uncertain times into a more sustainable, livable future.

The goal is to move children and their families out of shelter into housing as quickly as possible. When the stars align, when the right housing, the right job, income and other supports can be put in place, it can happen quickly.

Sometimes, not being able to find the right housing or lack of access to income lengthens the journey.

At the Inn, family advocates and case managers work as a team to pave the way to all the pieces falling into place so that children can grow beyond the trauma of homelessness in a family space where love, kindness, caring and support create the pathway they deserve to a brighter future.

I am in my second month of being at Inn from the Cold.

I am blessed to be surrounded by so many passionate and committed people who see a future where family homelessness is no longer the reality for children and their families.

Namaste.

*To protect identity, this woman’s story is a combination of several stories.

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Nature is a natural anti-depressant

IMG_6220I read a fascinating article at Tales from the Conspiratum about research coming out of McMaster University on the effects of anti-depressants on our brain’s ability to cope with stress.

It doesn’t make depression better. In fact, it could be making it worse, suggests Wade Hemsworth, author of the article from the McMaster University Daily news, “The Science behind commonly used anti-depressants seems to be backwards”. 

It’s an interesting read that suggests for people suffering from the most common forms of depression, SSRIs might actually be an obstacle on their path to recovery.

Nature, writes Tales from the Conspiratum, is still the best anti-depressant.

It is one of the challenges of depression. That which is healthy, healing and natural for recovery is also that which takes energy. And energy is not high on the list of things to expend when depression is clouding every thought, breath and feeling.

Had I gone to a doctor and been diagnosed when in the depths of a relationship that was killing me, I might have been prescribed anti-depressants.

I had no energy. My thinking was dark. I had constant suicidal thoughts. I had little to no belief in getting out of the relationship alive. Every joint, muscle, cell of my body hurt. I would awake in the morning and wonder if I didn’t have some incurable disease because it hurt so much to move out of the bed. I hoped I did. That would put an end to my misery.

And then, he was arrested and I was given the miracle of getting my life back.

Overnight, my bones stopped aching, my joints stopped hurting. When I walked, my hands were no longer clenched tight into fists. My gait was no longer stiff.

Yes, suicidal thinking still clouded my mind, but not every moment.

Without the poison of his abuse feeding me lies about my worth and my right to live, I could see clearly that without him, I had only one task, to heal so that my daughters could heal too.

It became my sole purpose in life. To do whatever it took to ensure my daughters knew, what happened to me had nothing to do with my lack of love for them. I knew as teenagers they could easily translate my disappearance into ‘I am not loveable’ and I could not let that happen. They had to know they are loveable exactly the way they are.

At the time, I remember believing what happened had everything to do with a lack of love for myself. In retrospect, miles from those dark days and nights of wishing to die and feeling like I already had, I can see that it was never about love, always about abuse.

What happened to me had everything to do with being in an abusive relationship.

Once the abuser was gone, I was free to fall in love all over again with me, myself and I. The depression that had clogged every fibre of my being began to lift as I began to see clearly, without him I had peace of mind.

I was blessed. I was in a time and space, surrounded by the loving support of my sister and her husband, to heal without fear. Everyday I would walk in the woods with Ellie the wonder pooch and breathe in freedom, exhale sadness. I would look up into the trees and see the limitless possibilities of the sky above and know, in freedom from abuse I could do anything.

I didn’t take an anti-depressant. I took nature’s natural gifts and breathed deeply into all she had to offer to help me heal. I was surrounded by beautiful seascapes, mountains soaring to the sky in rain-forested glory. Wrapped in nature’s embrace, beneath the sky and wind, beside the ocean, amidst the trees and wind-swept vistas of Vancouver’s north shore, I found the one thing I savoured and needed most, freedom.

Being in an abusive relationship is depressing. Staying in one is nullifying.

For a long time I couldn’t see that there was only one thing in the world that could change the sadness and fear that permeated my being throughout that relationship, and that was to walk away.

And then I did.

I had a lot of help and I am grateful. Walking away from abuse into living life beyond the edges of my fear has been a great gift. I don’t look back to remind myself of what he did. I look back to remind myself that that was then, this is now. And now is the gift of time to live with peace of mind, a joyful heart and restful soul.

And now is the time to walk in nature and give thanks for all her beauty shimmering in the air I breathe.