My life's journey has taught me that I can do or achieve anything that I put my mind to. I was born and raised in West Africa, and I was married off to a much older man when I was in my early twenties. That marriage changed the direction of my life and remains my biggest regret. My ex-husband abused me all through our ten-year marriage. I was abused in every way imaginable; mentally, financially, emotionally, sexually, physically, and otherwise. I lost three unborn babies to domestic violence. When I eventually had my miracle baby... that became my why.
I knew that raising my son in such a toxic environment would hurt him, so I became determined to break the cycle.
Having grown up in an abusive environment myself, I decided that I didn’t want my son to grow up and have the mental and emotional struggles as I have had. Once the opportunity presented itself, I fled my country and arrived safely in Canada. It was the beginning of a whole new journey.
I had become a shadow of myself. I was diagnosed with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and had contemplated suicide at some point. I no longer felt safe anywhere. This resulted in me leaving as soon as I noticed any signs of discomfort and I would rather flee than confront hard situations head-on. In counselling, I learned that I had been in fight or flight mode due to the abuse I went through. My only reason for fighting was again, my son. He was and has been my reason for fighting since then.
I remember the very first time I set foot in Discovery House to look at our prospective apartment. I had come in from the women's shelter where we had been for about a month, transitioning to second-stage housing. The staff who received me was so warm and kind to me. I immediately felt at home and was happy to move into the apartment.
I worked with a Discovery House caseworker who became like a member of my family. She was simply amazing. Another staff member worked with my son as his advocate. He struggled with self-esteem, couldn’t express himself, and had trouble forming relationships with his peers. During our time at Discovery House, I noticed that my son’s confidence improved greatly. He is now able to make friends, communicate his feelings, and has formed strong bonds. He has even won awards at his school.
In 2020 I got a job and have been working since then. I will be pursuing a career in social work because I have been so inspired by the Discovery House team. I would like to be a ray of hope to someone, having been a recipient of great support myself.
I am emotional and in tears as I write this. There have been lots of difficulties, however, knowing that I wasn’t alone made a whole lot of difference. Every member of the Discovery House team became our safe place. For the first time in years, I felt secure again. My biggest lessons from Discovery House:
- Everyone deserves kindness.
- You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.
- It takes nothing to show love.
I remain grateful. Thanks for reading.
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*Nahla’s name has been changed, and any identifying information has been removed from her story. This story has been shortened from her original testimonial.