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Courage To Come Back: Mental Health award recipient no longer a bystander in her own life

Last Updated May 3, 2018 at 6:54 am PST

Suzanne Venuta of Comox, the 2018 Courage To Come Back Award recipient in the Mental Health category. (John Ackermann, NEWS 1130 photo)

'It's like I was a bystander watching the rest of my life go by,' says recipient of Courage To Come Back Award

Comox woman's Dissociative Identity Disorder consumed everything she did in life, but is now a powerful advocate

'Don't give up. There is hope. You never know what's around the corner,' says Courage To Come Back Award recipient

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – For the last five weeks, we’ve been sharing with you incredible stories of ordinary people overcoming extraordinary odds. Now, it’s time for one more.

Our series of Courage to Come Back award profiles with a look at the recipient in the Mental Health category.

“I always knew something was wrong, I always felt a little different,” admits Suzanne Venuta. “It’s like I was a bystander watching the rest of life go by.”

That bystander feeling is how the Comox native describes her Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), stirred up by an upbringing filled with physical, psychological, and emotional abuse.

“You can’t run away, you can’t escape, because you’re also dependent upon those very same caregivers for survival, for food and clothing, for housing, so there is absolutely nowhere to escape,” she explains. “Dissociation is a very creative way for a young child to deal with overwhelming circumstances and that’s basically what I did to survive, was dissociate a lot.”

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Suzanne’s illness would eventually consume everything in her life. She wasn’t able to work. She lost her house. But after being correctly diagnosed with DID at the age of 44 in 2003, she has since become a powerful advocate, speaking to groups and leading workshops.

“It started off originally as just working with dissociative work,” she recalls. “But it’s kind of morphed out into all branches of mental health and busting the stigma and letting people know that you may have a mental health condition or mental illness, but that’s not who you are.”

Today, she blogs, speaks to students, and leads workshops about her condition. “It’s no different than any other illness and it needs to be treated and people need to start getting these conversations going.”

Suzanne insists if she can make it, others can too.

“I think of so many times in those deep, dark, black holes that I was in and wondering if I’m going to make it and is it worth hanging on, and it is worth hanging on. There is help out there,” she says. “Don’t give up. There is hope. You never know what’s around the corner.”

NEWS 1130 is a proud sponsor of the 20th annual Coast Mental Health Courage To Come Back Awards, which are being handed out on Thursday May 10th at the Vancouver Convention Centre.