I’m a firm believer that everybody who lives on this planet has a mission; they have a calling. I am no different. I’ll never forget my grandmother sitting down with me when I was 4 years old and saying “Arthur, when you grow up you’re going to be somebody someday.” For a long time growing up I spent a lot of time wondering what she could have possibly meant by that. I summoned other family members and friends too. What could have my grandmother possibly seen in me as a 4-year old that made her think I was so special? What made her so confident that I would grow up to do something so positive with my life?
My life has no doubt had its unique challenges; I’ve lived through a journey that even the most talented of writers couldn’t come up with such a story. It all started when I was born to an intellectually disabled mother, my father left before I was born, and my aging grandmother decided to support my mom in raising me. When I was 5, my grandmother took sick and later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and my mother was forced to care for me full-time or should I say I was forced to care for her?
With this massive responsibility stowed upon me I didn’t feel like other kids my age. I didn't know a childhood of not having to worry about money or whether my mom’s taxes were filed on time. The responsibility began to take its toll on me and I remember being as young as 8 years old, feeling so anxious and depressed that I began to make myself vomit just to avoid going to school.
When I was 9 years old Children’s Aid Society took custody of me and a judge awarded Crown Wardship to CAS, which meant they became my legal guardian. Throughout those next few years my symptoms continued and I soon became confused as to why I was feeling like that. Why didn’t I want to get out of bed in the morning? Why was I wanting to cry yet not knowing why? Why did I think I was on the verge of being kidnapped every time I locked eyes with somebody on the subway?
After I got my diagnosis of depression and anxiety disorder I had a lot of energy. Even as a teenager I was very vocal as to the care and treatment I was receiving and didn’t always think my healthcare team and caregivers knew best. Ontario’s Provincial Advocate for Children & Youth helped me to advocate for my rights in CAS but also in regards to my mental health treatment. That led to me sitting on the first of many advisory panels for their office.
As time passed by, other organizations and branches of government began to take notice. Executives of agencies I was a client of were asking for my advice and consulting me as to potential changes in policies and practices.
I had always wanted to be a journalist; so I could tell the stories of others. I never imagined that I’d be sharing my own in a very public way. I do a lot of talking, advising, and consulting. I even spark the occasional debate as to direction this country is going when it comes to the treatment of those with mental illness.
That is how I’m moving from awareness to action!