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Heartache to Hope

Heartache seemed to be a constant companion for Colleen.

In high school, she suffered a concussion that went untreated. Its effects visited her in adulthood as a seizure disorder and a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury (TBI). A friendship with a coworker and roommate dissolved into abuse, transforming her home into a battleground. Life got tougher in May 2019 when her roommate abandoned the apartment without warning, leaving Colleen to pay rent she couldn’t afford alone. Eviction quickly followed.

She and her 9-year-old son Jackson found a safe haven with friends in Seattle. In October, a seizure-induced fall on the bus left Colleen with five broken facial bones. Days later, feeling crowded, her friends asked the pair to leave. “You learn in your lowest moments who you can count on and who loves you.”

She couch surfed, helped her sister with childcare, moved to Eastern Washington to live with her mom. Winter turned to spring. COVID swept through the country.

A lack of adequate remote learning resources for Jackson forced them back to the west side of the Cascades. “Help was hard to find because we didn’t have stability,” and living with disabling seizures meant Colleen’s outlook for finding work was grim. Hopelessness and TBI triggered a battle with depression. And one year after her fall injury, living in a broken-down vehicle with only a small space heater to keep warm, Colleen was out of options. She called North Sound 2-1-1, and referral specialists put in a call to Maud’s House on Monday. By Friday, she and Jackson were sleeping in beds.

A rocky start in the house learning to live with other moms and children taught her “... a lot about patience and challenging your own judgments,” she remembers. ”Now I have a better understanding for others. I learned… compassion.”

Maud’s House Program Manager Natasha Lindsay took time to learn about Colleen’s struggles, to help light a path forward. The first step was to locate a therapist and address past trauma. Next, Colleen was connected to a housing navigator that found local assistance. Assuming multiple diagnoses meant a disability placement that comes with limits, Colleen was shocked to find out it was a permanent placement, giving her freedom to start making her own choices and mapping out her future.

Today, she has a small place of her own, continuing therapy and working on a course in data analysis. As a lover of puzzles and statistics, and needing to sit for work, it’s the perfect downshift from her old life and the fast pace of being a phlebotomist on her feet all day.

As for Jackson, he can safely walk to school and back home. His own home. Still, Colleen knows, it’s been difficult. “Kids are resilient, yes, but they are also affected. Jackson has anxiety and ADHD. He doesn’t always connect with other kids.” But with an established routine and stable housing, she can focus on helping Jackson, now 12, find his own path to healing. “Last night was the first night in two years – two years – my son slept through the night.”

Heartache has turned to hope.

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