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HeartSpark was born from a violent attack

I've been reflecting a lot lately on what HeartSpark is to me. I always feel it would be hard to replicate what I do because it feels like it's essentially who I am.


Where did it start?

In August 2012, a man attacked me in a public washroom. It was random - I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was at work.

It was my first exposure to violence, law enforcement, crime and all that follows.

The person who hurt me was never caught. I never found out why he did it or what his intention was.

And that was the start of my questions. Why did this happen to me? Is this some sort of karma for something I did? Will I be unsafe for the rest of my life?

The last one has become a statement to me: I will be unsafe for the rest of my life. So I know I still have work to do.

The day it happened I wanted the RCMP to put out a press release so others would be aware and it wouldn't happen to them - at the same time I was terrified the person who did this to me would somehow be able to track me down and hurt me again.

And yes, I know that thought might be extremely outlandish, but that's what fear and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) do.

My viewpoint of the world, that it's a safe place if I do all the right things, had been completely decimated. My brain, body and soul had been hurt and I never knew if they would heal.

I experienced abandonment, isolation, depression, anxiety, fear and many other psychological issues that plagued me for over a decade.

All my relationships changed, for better or for worse. I learned things about those around me and how they responded to others in crisis.

It was the worst thing that had happened to me, but I grew from it. It made me a better, more empathetic and compassionate person. I now have an intimate understanding of what happens to victims of crime and their families.

But you know who helped me when that happened? Victim Services with the RCMP. They offered support and case updates. They were a safe, understanding place to talk about what happened to me.

I now volunteering with Victim Services because I wanted to be there for someone else on their worst day as I knew how awful and isolating it felt. I may not fully understand their experience, but I could be there with them in their sorrow and grief.

I am also so grateful I was able to attend The Millard Centre in Edmonton. It is a WCB facility where I participated in programming with their Traumatic Psychological Injury unit. It was five days a week for two months of extensive therapy, lessons in mindfulness and relaxation, and spending time with other people who were suffering like I was. I wish a facility like this was available to all people who need it.


Finding ways to help others


I strived to find ways to help others. I started volunteering with Pets and Wellness Wood Buffalo with my dog Asia, who was always by my side and spent one month at the hotel with me when I was attending the Millard Centre.

She also had suffered some trauma from when she was a puppy and seemed to have similar fears to mine. But we both managed to grow and become more brave together over the years.

I lost Asia in December 2021 and it has been one of the hardest things I've ever had to live with. I didn't know just how deep grief went until I lost her.


Sink or swim

While I feel that life-changing assault no longer defines me, I want to say it took over a decade with a steep learning curve in how to cope with trauma.

This is because just four years later, the Horse River Wildfire happened and I had a very dramatic escape from my neighbourhood (the second time my life had been threatened and my viewpoint of the world destroyed), losing my home and then the difficulties of a rebuild that struck us hard financially and changed the trajectory of my life.


An interesting resume My life circumstances put me on a career path from journalist to pet store employee , stenographer and front desk clerk for RCMP, and a social club assistant, among other things.

I've worked behind the scenes at the Keyano Gala and helped organized and run numerous child and family events.

I transcribed statements from victims, witnesses and suspects and took fingerprints for Criminal Record Checks.

My current job is helping newcomers to Canada gain confidence in their English language skills and learn about our community. While I don't teach, I get to interact with our students and learn some of their stories. It is deeply rewarding and I feel lucky to have celebrated some of their successes with them.

Thanks to the various aspects of my past employment and volunteering, I met many, many people who have had a hand in helping me get to where I am.


Helping all the "little Hollys"

I started volunteering with kids in 2021 after experience a lot of self-growth after enrolling in Peer Support School through Canadian Mental Health Association Wood Buffalo.

Part of the healing process for me has been evaluating my negative self talk as though I were saying it to myself as a child. Some of the things I've said I would never say to Little Holly! It really gave me pause thinking about what I can say to all the "little Hollys" out there today.

Working with youth has been beneficial to both myself and the kids. We all learn from each other and usually can take away something from our interactions.

Life is really hard already, so it's so nice to have a safe place to come together to be ourselves and continue to learn and grow.

I'm so glad HeartSpark happened. I know it has been my life as a whole and all the terrible and wonderful experiences that have shaped me into who I am today. I hope I can help many other people understand that healing and growth don't happen overnight. But they do happen in time and to not give up on yourself or others. There is a place for you.





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