My Name is Patsy

I was born in Winnipeg and have five beautiful children - ages 19, 16, 15, 11 and 8 – who are my world and biggest inspiration for living. I thought I used to feel a lot of shame. But I have since learned that shame is an emotion that I couldn’t grow from. I felt guilt and, over time, learned to change my point of view and see things in a more positive way. I realized that, as a young mother who had traumas and experiences that I never dealt with or spoke about, this was the time I needed to be able to focus on my healing journey - to learn my roots, regain a sense of belonging, and be an independent and proud mom, daughter, sister, aunt, and niece.

My dad Karl, raised my siblings and I on his own until my stepmom, Carrie, came into our lives as a daycare teacher. Years later my little sister was born. My parents have been together 26 years and have been some of my biggest supporters. I’m going to start from what I can remember. I often dealt with shootings and gang violence within our family and outside our home.

My mom was in and out of our lives due to addiction and alcoholism. When I was about 5 or 6 years old and my dad had custody of us, she kidnapped us one night with her boyfriend and I remember being so afraid. I’d had to get a pair of socks from my dad’s room and he was arms reach away. I could have woken him. I could have done something; but I didn’t. It still bothers me to this day.

As my dad’s first born, I have always been very close to my dad. I consider him a role model and my hero. When I was younger, my siblings and I went through what no child should ever have to go through. I myself suffered through sexual, physical, emotional and mental abuse … being taken from our home and family and stripped of our culture and traditions, being placed in individual foster homes to separate my sibling and me.

I feel that in the early 1990s it was not the norm for a single man to be raising kids. Although he took the steps to regain custody of us, we would be taken when he was at work or out until, when I was 9 years old, my dad was able to finally get us packed up and relocated to Welland, ON so he could have family support from my grandma, aunts and uncles.

As I got older, I was in and out of trouble, skipping school, getting suspended. I dropped out in grade nine and got into drugs. At 15 I got pregnant with my first son. At 5 months pregnant, the day after my birthday, my son’s father hung himself. It was a lot to deal with. I tried to take care of him but ended up signing custody over to my parents.

I moved to Winnipeg, then Toronto, where I met Omar whom I had 2 children with. He was very abusive in every aspect. After 5 long years with him and giving birth to two more sons 11 months apart I had enough and left him. I was happy and living a sober life. I went back to school, completed grade 11, and reconnected with William. He treated me and my children so well, the only problem was he had addiction issues. Eventually that led to me using again off and on. We were together 11 years when he started getting physically abusive. So in 2017 I left and went to a shelter with my kids.

The shelter assumed I was using drugs and called F.A.C.S. to take my children away until I did a drug test which came back negative. I went to court to try and get my children back but then it switched to stability – my mental health, abusive relationships and, because I was in a shelter, lack of stable housing.

I gave up on living, got into harder drugs, and didn’t care to live. With addiction, I was in and out of jail on a vicious cycle – jail, using, jail, using, not seeing my kids or my family. Until I said enough is enough and decided I didn’t want to do it anymore. I applied to Thunder Woman and was approved. When my next court date came up on July 14th, 2021, I got time served with three years’ probation. 

Words cannot express my gratitude for this opportunity and chance to be able to heal, work through traumas and have the amazing support from staff and women who helped me and believed in me even when I didn’t do so myself… who gave me the words of encouragement and opportunities to figure out who I am and who I want to be.

Since I have been at the Lodge, I have been a part of the work integration program at the main office and am also enrolled in the Indigenous Community Healthcare Worker Program through Anishnaabe Health Toronto and George Brown College. I have completed a parenting program through Aboriginal Legal Services and I’m having regular visits with my children, and family. My son Delantay is now back in my care full time after 5 years and we are settled into our new home in Scarborough.

I am continuing my healing journey and working on gaining custody of my younger children. I am getting back to being that mom that I know I can be, only a stronger, better “me” for my family and my children – and most importantly – for myself. Thank you, Patti, for your amazing dream, dedication, and amazing spirit.

I will always be grateful for another chance at life. Thank you to the amazing staff who give their all when they come to the lodge, they have been so compassionate, supportive, and a major influence in my life.

To the Elders and program facilitators who helped me to understand and learn more about the culture and practices to help me on my journey within and out of the lodge, I have learnt so much in the last 14 months. I truly believe in what Thunder Woman Healing Lodge Society has to offer and that is the opportunity for a chance at life … to gain Indigenous knowledge and have the healthy supports during and after the completion of the program.

Miigwetch, Patsy.

“[..] suffered through sexual, physical, emotional and mental abuse ... being taken from our home and family and stripped of our culture and traditions, being placed in individual foster homes to separate my sibling and me.”