The sun dances on the right side of seventeen year old Autumn MacDonald’s face as she reflects on the shadows of her past. “I always felt like people were looking at me,” she explains about her struggle with social anxiety. “I would hide under the covers, not wanting to get out of bed. I would hide beneath the safety of my hoodie so nobody would know the truth.”
Moving from town to town when she was younger, Autumn never truly set roots anywhere long enough to develop lasting friendships. For years, anger and anxiety lived inside of the thin, beautiful girl. “I couldn’t understand why I was so mad. I loved sports, drama and music, but I could never put myself out there to participate,” her voice turns to a tone of regret.
Autumn’s grade nine teacher sent her to the principal’s office for not taking her hood down in class. It was then that her principal recognized the struggle. Autumn was set up with an outreach worker through Mental Health and Addiction Services. “Had I known the impact that my outreach worker, Deena, was going to have on my life that day, I would have never believed it. She has supported me every step of the way.”
Autumn was diagnosed with anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression. “I was terrified. I worried what people would think about me at school now that my issues had a name,” she remembers, “But somehow, I felt better knowing why I was upset all the time.”
Deena Corbett, Autumn’s outreach worker recognized signs of alcohol and drug abuse and encouraged Autumn to take part in a program called CaperBase which is targeted toward at risk youth. It is both an online and group focused project that gives teens a safe place to turn. Through their “Free2BU” program, Autumn says, “I finally was able to be myself; at CaperBase activities I took my hood down.”
Creating friendships and learning that she wasn’t alone in her feelings, Autumn excelled in her activities. More like a family, CaperBase is a warm environment where teens learn to deal with their feelings, addictions and mental health. Autumn admits she is a different person than she used to be.
With the sun now brightly in her eyes, Autumn laughs, “I’m happy now. I can get along with anyone. I enjoy going out now and I am confident in doing so. Now when people stare, I don’t turn away. I think to myself, go ahead and look at me if you want to.”