2 min read

Waking Sleeping Beauty - Caitlyn's Story

Content Warning: Mentions of eating disorders.

Caitlyn took to the skies as a flight attendant in her early 20’s, but an unexplained chronic illness would cause turbulence and change the course of her life.

Born in Richmond, British Columbia, Caitlyn moved to Alberta at the age of 3. Throughout her adolescence, she would go back and forth between the two provinces. After getting her travel and tourism diploma in Vancouver, she went on to work for local and international airlines.

Just when her aviation career was accelerating, Caitlyn’s health took a turn for the worse and she was in the midst of battling an unknown severe chronic illness. For three years, she describes her experience akin to Sleeping Beauty. She was originally a busy body with an active social life and loved to travel and be out in the community. But her chronic pain and medication caused her to sleep 12 - 14 hours a day. Caitlyn recalls, “I just didn’t understand how I went from feeling so on top of the world – being very successful in my career, having all these ambitious goals and then to just lose everything, to the point of having to go on welfare and not having a stable place to live.”

On top of her chronic illness, Caitlyn was fighting another inner demon. Battling anorexia and bulimia since 15 years old, Caitlyn wonders if her eating disorders and her busy aviation life contributed to her decline in health. On the outside, she came across as someone who was in good shape, working out and eating well. But on the inside, there was a different story. Caitlyn shares that when it came to her eating disorder she was in denial, and didn’t realize it was ruining her health.

Although the fight for her health was a long and arduous one, Caitlyn was able to break through with the help of a faith-based program, Freedom Session, and she came out feeling healthier and stronger. During her path to recovery, a fateful encounter with MP Neighbours Coordinator, J Hockley, introduced her to Mission Possible. This provided the perfect transitional opportunity for her to reset. Right from the start, Caitlyn could see that Mission Possible was more supportive and compassionate than a conventional workforce. She felt equipped with the resources and tools the program provided. “[Mission Possible] offers everything you need to rebuild.” 

Being a big supporter of women supporting women, Caitlyn felt right at home with the Women’s Track Team. “There’s nothing more therapeutic than getting our gear, hopping into the work truck, playing music and getting that girl time!” She found the fellowship and bonding time with her team to be very special and healing. Knowing that all the women there are also overcoming their own adversities, Caitlyn felt like she was in a safe space. Even during co-ed shifts, she found that everyone was included and respected. “Everyone at Mission Possible is going through their own battle and trying to get a step ahead, and so I feel like I can fit in. And although my path is different from everyone else, I feel very seen here, and that I belong here.”

Moving forward, Caitlyn has joined the MP Neighbours team and is helping with community safety in the Downtown Eastside three times a week. Caitlyn is also happy to share that she finished her advanced aesthetic diploma and is now working as a medical aesthetician at a clinic twice a week. Looking towards the future, Caitlyn has an ambitious goal of starting her own clinic in the Downtown Eastside that will be holistic and health oriented. She hopes to provide resources to women in the DTES community to help them get off the streets and into homes. She’s amazed at how far she’s come after hitting rock bottom and getting sick, to being able to overcome everything and getting back into work. “[The experience] has been so healing for me, healing my self confidence and getting back into a routine. Now I feel like I have my life back.”

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