Transformation means to go beyond your form. It’s perfectly describes the dramatic change in the course of Marianne’s* life, a woman served by WJS Canada. Her story begins with tragedy and heartache, but ultimately, with the support of her dedicated care team, it’s a story of transformation and hope. This piece was written by a WJS Canada employee who works with Marianne and has been inspired by the changes she’s seen in Marianne’s life.
Two years ago, I met Marianne in the backyard of her home. We sat and chatted, and she immediately got me laughing. I was able to get to know her in just a few minutes. Shortly after, I requested to be put into her program.
When I finally moved into her program it was on one of her worst days. My day started at the hospital where I found Marianne sitting with a police escort. She had attacked one of her staff while out shopping.
Marianne had a crisis nearly every day. She had several mental health assessments and medication reviews. She attempted to harm staff on a handful of occasions as well. Though it was rare, it was still a daily concern since she was very unpredictable during this time.
Marianne would lie and steal from her friends so most of them stopped visiting her. When Marianne visited with family she would accuse them of extreme abuse and they would not talk for weeks. She would talk down to her daughter, causing her to cry by calling her ugly or fat.
When Marianne found out that her capacity assessment indicated that she was to be put on a lifetime guardianship order, she was devastated. She didn’t fully understand how beneficial her guardian was for her in her life, but now she would never have the chance to become her own guardian, which spiralled her downward further.
She wanted no part of her care givers. She would verbally threaten them for an entire 12-hour shift. Marianne went for days without sleep. There’s was nothing the staff could do except listen and support her as best they could. Marianne lost several long-time staff members and new staff members were hired. For a short period, I was the only full-time staff member left. I’ll be honest – some of those shifts brought me to tears from stress and burnout. But I am so glad I stayed for the long haul.
Her doctor finally tested her for diabetes and reviewed her medications. He changed her entire medication profile. Between taking control of her diabetes and taking new medications, Marianne began to stabilize.
Within a month Marianne went from having no good days and no sleeps to entire weeks with no behaviours or “strange talk,” as we call her delusional talk. The “strange talk” and behaviours disappeared and have never really returned. Marianne has days where she can be sassy and unpleasant but don’t we all?
Marianne spends time with her friends, laughing and enjoying activities again. She enjoys concerts and learned to make a beautiful dragon ceramic in her ceramics class. Marianne went with a group of staff members to make a terrarium. Hers lived. Mine didn’t!
Marianne got a job delivering pizzas. Marianne has kept this job and has excelled at it for over a year now. She is still going strong. With very little staff support, Marianne has become a star employee. She is polite and professional to her customers.
Marianne is open and mature about sharing her feelings and thoughts now. She knows that if she doesn’t eat she will become irritable. She recognizes when she is being grumpy and apologizes for being grumpy right away.
Marianne attends all her doctor’s appointments and has real conversations with them, instead of yelling and accusing them of mistreatment. She listens intently to their advice and sees her counsellor on a regular basis.
Her guardian, with whom she is close, has requested a permanent private guardianship. Marianne is very excited for this day to arrive. They have lunch and just talk about their lives and calls her just to say hi. Her guardian has said many times how proud she is of Marianne’s progress with WJS Canada.
Marianne frequently visits her family. She and her daughter laugh together and talk more than ever before. Marianne has even hosted a few ‘Bath Bomb’ parties to help her daughter’s home-based business. During this time, her daughter pulled me aside to ask what Marianne’s favourite items are, so she could surprise her with a specially picked set as a thank you. Marianne has reunited with her father, with whom she has had a strained relationship her entire life.
Marianne speaks about her bad days and is quite lucid about how she was then. She thanks staff on a regular basis. She says that if weren’t for us helping her she wouldn’t have the great life she has now.
Marianne went from being the hardest and most stressful client to work with to becoming the dream client. Marianne’s journey over these past two years is why we do what we do.
It’s truly inspiring to watch someone’s life go from rock bottom to a life full of promise and accomplishment.
*Her name and identifying details have been changed to protect her privacy.