It is often said that life experiences help make us who we are. Julie Vallieresis no stranger to this concept as she presses forward in her journey to redefine herself. Now a married 42 year old mother of three, she reflects on her20+ year battle with depression and anxiety that has had a significant impact on her life. With persevering determination, Julie refuses to be brought down by her condition.
Born and raised in Quebec, she worked in Ontario as a nanny until she moved into the area in 1998 to teach English as a second language in Peterborough. Julie considers herself to be a perfectionist and believes that she pushed herself too hard to achieve high self-imposed standards. By the fall of her second year, she was unable to work, and feelings of shame and weakness plagued her. She felt misunderstood even by her family doctor. Fourweekslater, she woke up to an unexpected breakthrough followed by a welcomed feeling of freedom. This permitted her to muster up courageand return to her normal routine. Around that time, a friend recommended jogging, which quickly became one of Julie’s favourite ways to clear her thoughts and help control her condition. This new interest led her to run her first marathon in Quebec in 2001.
Many years later,around the time of the birth of her third child, shehad stopped jogging and had begun to see some symptoms resurface. She was in for another dark phase, but how to treat it?
“Since coming here, I had always felt that I never received the appropriate care for my illness. They did not take me seriously,” Julie states, but this all changed in 2014. During her most recent relapse, she was admitted to the Peterborough hospital (PRHC) with a diagnosis of major depression. The collaborative mental health program of PRHC and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) provided exactly what Julie had been searching for. With united efforts,her diagnosis waschanged to Bipolar II Disorder and her treatment was readjusted to suit the new diagnosis. This development helped herget back up and running again in just over a month.
Julie’s weekly running includes four 10km jogs and a 2 hour 20km jog.At the end of August, she has her heart set on running a marathon in Quebec. Her run has created a number of fundraising opportunities for the CMHA. Vallieres also wants to raise awareness of her mission. “I want to break the silence and stigma of depression and emphasize the importance of being open andable to talk about it.”
Photography has always been another of Julie’s interests, but after her recent recovery, it has also become a form of therapy. Taking pictures allows her to see the world in a new light. “I love to take portraits and capture beautiful expressions and natural moments,” says Vallieres. One of Julie’s photographs is displayed on the wall in PRHC after being submitted as an entry for Collective Visions – a public art project for artists whose lives have been impacted by mental illness.
On Ladies’ Night, she has arranged a photo shoot fundraiser with the help of Nexicom. Supporters have the opportunity to receive 5 professionally edited portrait photos with proceeds going to the CMHA.
As Julie plans to return to work in September, her appreciation of the present and positive outlook on the future is a true inspiration! She has learned to live in the moment and apply the words of her Collective Visions entry: “Embrace this season of life, for it is just that, a season.”