My Struggle With Shame

Continuing our series of blogs written by folks in Edmonton with lived experience, meet Mark Helle.  Mark is a resident at Ambrose Place and is living with a disability. He shares his story with us on the impact poverty has had on him throughout his life.

Mark Helle

Mark Helle

I tried to kill myself, that’s how I ended up at the Royal Alex hospital for four months. That was about a year ago now and I’ve been living in Ambrose Place since. I can relax and I feel closer to the Creator here.

My depression started 45 years ago after I was in a very bad car accident at the age of 17. I don’t remember exactly what happened because I have a head injury from the crash. It also left me blind in my right eye and deaf in my right ear. My left leg is also partially paralyzed. My life changed so drastically, so quickly and I became very depressed. My mother sent me down to Edmonton from Fairview to recuperate in the hospital, both for my physical and mental state. After 18 months in hospital, I was released and I moved into a group home.

I had a lot of beat ups and put downs, I could not accept myself for what I was - for what I am today. I turned to drugs and alcohol. After awhile, I got better and even found happiness in a relationship. However, I hadn’t dealt with my pain or shame and my alcoholism came back to me. I drank so much that eventually my wife left me.

During this time, I spent a lot of time on the streets. Even there, I was not accepted because of the way I talk. I have been beat up many times, held at knife point, shanked and run over. There were times I felt that I was going to be the next person murdered in the city. It was a very real fear for me, and I sometimes still feel this way.

I found AA and continue to struggle with my sobriety. I have hopes and dreams to work with youth and talk with them about being sober. I think if I had someone helping me when I was young, that would have changed a lot of things for me. I have Creator to thank for keeping me here. It’s really amazing that I am still alive.

I have tried to work with my disability, however I have a lot of challenges. I was unable to do anything with my hopeless state of mind and my body. Because of this, I have lived on Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) my entire life. This can be isolating, I don’t have the means to do the things I want or buy things I may need. There’s so much I would like to have or do while I am still alive, but I am unable. I think there’s a social piece I also miss from working, like meeting new people and having somewhere to go each day. A few weeks ago my mother passed away in Fairview. I was unable to attend the funeral without money for the bus.

As of this day, I sometimes feel ashamed of living at Ambrose Place. When I tell people where I am living, some of them have a big laugh so I just walk away. Because I have a disability, many people have a hard time appreciating me. I’m just trying to be an example of living my life the best I can. I can’t be the way I used to be, so I just try to move forward with the abilities I do have.