Susanne moved to Alberta two and a half years ago in search of a better life. “I was really struggling with life itself, not knowing why—I was just having a hard time doing day-to-day functions,” says Susanne. “I couldn’t get help at home in New Brunswick; there just aren’t the resources.”
Susanne moved with her husband and daughter and sought help from a therapist. “She suggested that I take an anger management course, but it turns out that’s not what I needed at all. I needed to go to the Healthy Relationships course. I didn’t know that I had been living in an unhealthy family environment for 29 years, so it was an eye-opening experience to go to that course and see how a family unit really should function and cooperate and communicate.”
During The Family Centre’s intake interview, Susanne realized that she had experienced seven types of adverse childhood experiences. “I didn’t know that I was living in a very abusive and volatile environment for 29 years. The Intake interview was just enough to show me, ‘oh dear, I think I need some help. More than I thought I knew.’”
Susanne started the Healthy Relationships therapeutic group for women, but it wasn’t easy at first. “The course was all about me and the choices I had to make. It was challenging for me to go there every week because I didn’t love myself enough to see or understand that I deserved to be there.” After attending a few times, she saw this start to change. “Going every week and practicing meditation every week with other people who were there for some reason or another did help. The group experience was what made me want to go. Knowing there were other people there that I could at least talk to was the tie that kept me going.”
“In the course itself, every week we would do something different. There were different modules and different blocks, and with that, I was learning that if I was angry, lonely, tired, hungry—those are all things that can make me trigger without even an abusive memory,” Susanne says. “I learned about family dynamics and communication—especially with my partner. I learned how to be responsible for myself, and how to be responsible for my child.”
Since the Healthy Relationships course, Susanne learned that motherhood was constantly triggering her. “When I found that out, it was like two doors were wide open for me, and I was able to get out of the rut I was in.” She was given a book at the course called Trigger Points, which contained stories of other people who were abused as a child, and then had the opportunity to have a child. “Then all of a sudden we’re just constantly reminded of our abusive childhood. And when I learned that—that’s exactly what changed my life forever. I could fully embrace loving my child and loving myself and my family.”
Susanne still practices meditation as much as possible. “I try to implement meditation in everything I do, like music, folding laundry, doing dishes—I can just focus on my breathing.” Susanne and her family also implemented a Grateful Board. “We talk about gratefulness every night at supper time, and I can tell that changed the energy of who we are as a unit,” she says. “It just helps us all come together at the end of our day, and we can talk about what we’re grateful for, and it sparks these positive conversations.”
Susanne recognizes that it was difficult at first to attend the course, but that it was ultimately life-changing. “You’re going to have to find a way to keep going because you will eventually find the love for yourself to see why you need to be there. That’s what happened to me. It took me going and learning from it. Because of the experiences I had, healing my brain was giving me the opportunity to be more open. Now I’m much more intuitive and in touch with myself."