In this series, we share stories from Art Jam participants. Art Jam - a volunteer-run program of the Salt Spring Arts Council supported by the Social Justice Committee of the SSI United Church - provides a safe, welcoming space for members of our marginalized community, where they can be defined as creators and artists, rather than by the challenges they regularly face. By celebrating their unique creative accomplishments and reinforcing the value of their work through public exhibitions we promote positive self-identities and help build self-esteem.
My story starts off well enough, although at a young age my father started drinking heavily and got quite angry with his life and started abusing me, my sister and my mom. When I was nine my mom, sister and I ran away from that toxic scenario. I was raised by my mom and sister for the next nine years. Although it was hard for me as a young man with no father, it worked well for the most part.
Shortly after my 18th birthday, my nephew (4 years old) found his way into the garage… I turned around just in time to put my hand between his hand and the table saw. The resulting muscle, nerve and tendon damage has made life as a skilled labourer impossible and day to day life nearly intolerable. The psychological drain alone has rendered me depressed with levels of social anxiety that would baffle most.
I went on disability for two years, unable to work and doing nothing but physiotherapy for 2 years. When I found out that the amount of jobs in Edmonton had reached an all-time low, my mental state rapidly followed. I began reaching out to any and all that I could. After several months Facebook popped up my father under “people you may know.” Although I’d not seen him in ten years, give or take, I sent him a message. By nothing shy of a miracle, just over a week later I was on a plane to Salt Spring Island, BC where he was living.
The main reason I ended up on Salt Spring was for work. Me being older and more understanding, I moved here with a “forgive and forget” mentality. Although the pain in my hand bothers me on a daily basis, I have kept doing labour work when I can get it. My father and I lived together for a while. He has resolved his anger issues and we can coexist to some extent. I’ve moved into a tent in the bush now, near some other folks.
Work no longer being my main concern, I have had the chance to focus on my mental state. Slow as the progress has been, progress has been made. I’m much happier living in the slower environment of Salt Spring. The rest of my story has yet to be lived.