A woman who is so much more than her illness

Author Laurell Hamilton once said, “There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.” If there’s anyone who knows this to be true, it’s Victoria. At 46, Victoria found herself being escorted into a hospital, hands twisted behind her back. As the police guided her frail 105-pound frame through the doors, it wasn’t fear that Victoria felt. It was shame.

“I could not have people look at me at that moment,” she recalls. “Everybody must have thought I committed a crime. I felt robbed of everything. I had no dignity left.”

But Victoria had committed no crime. She was merely a victim of Treatment Resistant Depression, a form of depression that is chronic and incurable. Time and time again, she tried to treat her condition through psychotherapy, medication and even electro-shock treatment.

Victoria’s courage is not limited her ability to ask for help – she is also courageous in her battle to end the stigma associated with mental illness. When she can, Victoria lends her face, voice and story to the struggle to end stigma against psychiatric illnesses. By her side, each step of the way, is the Psychiatric Inpatient Unit at Toronto General Hospital.

Her shame in being taken into the hospital is slowly lessening through the constant affirmation that she is in fact worth saving.

“Staff in this unit remind us daily that we are human beings,” she explains. “They don’t feel we will contaminate them. They think we are worth saving.”

Patients like Victoria are encouraged to engage with each other, talk about their challenges and victories, tell personal stories and most importantly, be themselves. Through it all, people like Victoria are able to become more than their illness.