We listen to many similar stories at LOFT, of people who had fractured relationships with family due to undiagnosed mental health challenges. Pauline, now a senior who lives at our College View location in downtown Toronto, is one of those stories of both heartbreak and hope.
When she was growing up, Pauline says her parents treated her poorly. She suspects it was tied to her bipolar disorder. Pauline made the tough choice to set out on her own after Grade 10, and she didn’t return to school.
Despite her mental health challenges, life was good for many years. Pauline worked as a receptionist, and then became a typist for the Air Force. She had a desire to help people, and pursued a job as an occupational therapy assistant, and later became a nurse’s aide, assisting people in need of home care.
Around the time she turned 50, Pauline’s life began to unravel. She went through an especially difficult period with her mental health, leaving her unable to work. Her social worker helped her find a place in community housing at College View, which Pauline has called home for the last 28 years.
College View is an affordable housing building in downtown Toronto, run by Toronto Community Housing (TCH). In 1999, LOFT began offering support services to older adults and seniors in the building who were dealing with complex challenges, such as mental illness, addiction, chronic physical health issues, social isolation and more.
The timing of LOFT’s involvement couldn’t have been better for Pauline, who was beginning to need more assistance in order to live independently. Today, she’s grateful for the help she gets from LOFT staff, who pick up shopping and other grocery items for her weekly and help her get to and from appointments.
LOFT staff, and the community at College View that surrounds Pauline, are her support system. Although her relationships with her family improved with time, they never fully recovered from the challenges of her early years. She keeps in touch with 6 brothers and sisters (and her 11 nieces and nephews), but they’ve never been especially close. Her mental health is now stable and well-managed thanks, in part, to the support she’s received from LOFT.
“I consider LOFT my family,” she says.