VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – She grew up in a poor and abusive household, battled mental illness, but has managed to overcome her challenges, and today gives back to others.
NEWS 1130’s series of Courage To Come Back profiles with a look at the winner in the Social Adversity category.
“You’re the author of your own life,” says Meredith Graham.
“You have the opportunity to choose which characters are in your life and how you’re going to respond to certain things and where you want to go.”
And her life would make quite the page-turner.
Born in poverty in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Meredith was a runaway at age 13, the same year she was diagnosed with depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
“The only way to describe it is just running… running toward just what you think might be peace and freedom.”
Five years later, she attempted suicide and found out she was bipolar.
Eight years after that, Meredith was told she had borderline personality disorder.
“You have this incredibly sensitive person growing up in a completely invalidating harmful environment,” she explains.
She says she wouldn’t be here today if not for what she calls her army of “pretend mamas,” teachers and others who helped her along her very difficult upbringing.
“You may not know what kind word is saving a person for the day or how that other person is receiving it and how they are holding on it.”
Today, she advocates for more supports for children once they age out of the foster care system.
“You know, chronologically you’re 19, but, some days, you’re four and especially if you’re dealing with trauma of your childhood or your young life. And at 19, the structure that has been holding you is taken away.”
She also stresses that your childhood experiences and environment need not define you or limit your potential.
“I started working in a group home I used to live in. [And] that’s one of the things I really try to support the girls to understand that living in this group home isn’t your end, and where do you want to go, and who do you want to be… all of those pieces.”
Meredith dreams of one day getting her doctorate in counselling with the aim of opening a theatre therapy studio.
“I have an emotional connection to theatre. It was one of the only places I felt valued in school and so being on stage and being part of that theatre community was really invaluable to me.”
Now 27, she’s in her third year of the Child and Youth Care program at Douglas College, where she co-founded the Peer Health Educators support group.
“One of our big focuses is reducing stress and anxiety in students so that they are able to cope better with school and with their environment.”
For all she’s accomplished, she’s quick to share the credit, even when it comes to having the Courage To Come Back.
“It’s not so much about my individual courage as it was about the community courage of people coming around and supporting me,” she says.
“While it may be my courage that is recognized, I think it’s important to highlight the courage of the people who have stepped into my life to support me and walk alongside me. So, this award is as much theirs as it is mine.”
NEWS 1130 is a proud sponsor of the Coast Mental Health Courage To Come Back Awards, which will be handed out Thursday May 5th at the Vancouver Convention Centre.