Jenna is a survivor. Jenna has experienced more health challenges than many people will face in a lifetime, all before the age of 25.
At 4 years old Jenna was in a car accident. She suffered a traumatic brain injury and was in a coma for three weeks. Jenna was supposed to have right-side paralysis, which through extensive therapy, hard work and determination she overcame. She would not only walk again, she would not let her brain injury stop her from being an active and engaged child. However, as she grew up she started to experience symptoms that could not necessarily be explained by the brain injury.
“In high school I was having troubles balancing my school schedule with my athletics. I found that things seemed too heavy. I was just not able to make the shift between school and sports in my mind. It was overwhelming.”
In grade 9 Jenna was diagnosed as unipolar, meaning she was experiencing depression. But this diagnosis was not complete. Unfortunately Jenna would experience uncontrollable manic episodes before being fully diagnosed as bipolar in Grade 12. This meant that she spent much of her graduating year in the hospital.
It was while Jenna was in the hospital that she learned about CMHA.
“I was very hesitant at first to access the programs at CMHA. I knew they had programs designed to help me, but I had to first come to terms with my mental illness. It was a huge step to fully acknowledge and accept that my mental illness was a part of who I am. I struggled with this like many people do because you just want to be normal. I did not want to be looked at differently. I had to get past the stigma surrounding mental illness before I could reach out to CMHA for help.”
Once Jenna was able to accept her illness she would find more than just programs and services at CMHA to lead a mentally health life, she would find a community.
“I love coming to CMHA. I volunteer regularly and take part in many of the programs for young adults. At CMHA I am just Jenna, not Jenna with bipolar disorder. Everyone is so accepting and understanding.”
At CMHA Jenna found the support she needed to successfully manage her mental health.
“I have learned so much about myself and to just be ok with not being ok sometimes. I am now honest with myself and other people. I don’t try to hide my mental illness. It is a part of who I am. I have learned to let people in my life help me and this has helped me grow as a person. I don’t second guess myself anymore. I have learned to live in the now and experience new experiences. I could not have come to where I am today without fully accepting my illness and taking control of my life.
At 25 she has overcome so much and grown so much as a person that she is on to her next amazing feat, finishing her first marathon!