My days before coming here were filled with anxiety that made it hard to breathe or focus on anything and all I could think about was how I was heading back to the city and neighbourhood where I had my first drink, and then the first sexual assault. A few blocks from there would be where I got loaded for the first time, and also just a few blocks from my elementary school and childhood homes. I grew up here, and somewhere along the way this is also where I disconnected. I was still a kid when I left here so that my family wouldn’t have to watch me burn my life down; although, in retrospect that was far more for my own comfort than theirs.

The past year was a rough one, it took almost 14 years to get the stories out in the open, but once they were out I began to move through them, processing the feelings I had worked so hard to numb out, and the start of letting go of stories of unworthiness I had built up around everything in all aspects of my life.

I didn’t know how badly I needed this trip… The past couple of weeks have been spent in places that used to fill me with a fear so dark it suffocated out everything else, but now feel light and peaceful. I can walk down the street and appreciate the beauty here, and find support and love in a place that used to feel so cold and barren. So many times the work felt too difficult to get through and I wanted to run away from it all, but being here now it has never felt so worth it. Reminders that we are not defined by our stories, nor our fears.