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It Was me or my Mom's Mental Illness -- One of us Had to Go

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In life, we all have causes we fight for, advocate on behalf of and bring attention to. Some of these causes may include animal rights, rights for victims of crime, and many other very important causes that are too numerous to mention. More times than not, the cause we spend energy promoting within our circles and beyond is a cause that has personally touched and affected us.

My name is Arthur Gallant, I'm 22 years old, and my cause is trying to eliminate the stigma and stereotypes associated with mental illness. I guess I really had no choice when it came to choosing a cause because mental illness has always been a part of my life. I was born to a mother who is intellectually disabled and has the mental capacity of a pre-teen. When I was 13, I was diagnosed as having clinical depression and chronic anxiety.

My mother raised me as a single parent with the support of my grandmother who then became diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease when I was five years old and moved into a nursing home. My mother struggled as she tried to raise a blossoming child while attending to her own parent that was living the final years of her life.

Finally, it became too much. My mother had to make a choice as to whom she could best care for. In the end, my mother chose to give up her parental rights and physical custody of me to the Children's Aid Society (CAS) when I was nine years old. While I will never fully understand my mother's state of my mind at the time she made her decision, I am confident she truly felt as if she had my best interests at heart.

Calling my nine years as a Crown Ward of CAS "challenging" is an understatement. I moved around over 16 times between group homes and foster homes in the Greater Toronto Area and easily had over 100 caregivers. As mentioned above, I was diagnosed with clinical anxiety when I was 13 after being hospitalized for threatening suicide. The diagnosis did not come as a surprise to me.

I remember being six or seven years old and having difficulties with my homework in elementary school, and looking my teachers up in the phone book to call them for help. I was worried that if I didn't do the homework that I would be penalized despite completing as much as I could to the best of my ability. I worried so much to the point that I began to vomit.

As for my depression, there was really no life event that led me to begin feeling this way.

In future blogs I'll talk about the misconceptions of depression and what it feels like for me. But I remember sleeping for up to 20 hours a day, going between eating too much and eating too little, and feeling like I lost the will to live. I saw no future for myself. I guess the suicidal threats were a way to gauge my caregivers to see if they wanted me to die as much as I thought I wanted to.

Wednesday night at 7pm Arthur is hosting an online LIVE chat on the Canadian Mental Health Association-Ontario Facebook page. Arthur will be talking more about his mental illness, the stereotypes and stigma surrounding mental illness, and what you should if you think you or somebody else is living with mental illness