By Christine Barbeau, L’Itinéraire
Up until the age of ten, Mélanie and her identical twin sister lived with their parents, whom they adored. Then one day, their father left them to go and live with another woman, who had twin sons and a daughter. This was the beginning of an uninterrupted series of moves for Mélanie and Mélissa, which lasted more than a decade.
Mélanie stayed with their mother for a while, then joined Mélissa at their father’s. “My sister and I were strongly affected by my parents’ separation,” she says. “I couldn’t pay attention at school. I was mixed up.” At this point, the girls were placed in two different group homes.
The two sisters never lived together again. On a few occasions, one or the other tried to live with their mother or father, but it didn’t work out. At the age of 15, Mélanie asked her dad to let her live in a group home again. Her sister chose a different group home. “She’d run away, she’d mutilate herself, and she heard voices. She wanted us to run away together to be with our mom,” Mélanie reveals. Finally, she decided to cut ties with her sister. “She would hurt me,” she recalls. “And she pushed my buttons.”
Mélanie speaks frankly about her mental health. “I have borderline personality disorder, undifferentiated schizophrenia, and a mild intellectual disability,” she says. “I’m very open about it.” Despite her learning disability and concentration problems, Mélanie is articulate and writes almost flawlessly. Moreover, she has an incredible memory: “I have no trouble repeating a sequence of numbers in order, forwards and backwards.”
Mélanie lives on her own in an apartment; she has been on a waiting list for low-rent housing for six years. She has good friends and goes to day centres where she can talk, have a meal, and do activities. “I have a full life,” Mélanie states. “I’m always on the move and am rarely at home. What I love most is singing country music.”
Almost three years ago, Mélanie became curious about a friend’s job selling L’Itinéraire magazine. After asking him a lot of questions, she decided that it would be a good job for her. “I didn’t finish high school,” she says. “I had never worked before in my life, but from the start, I knew how to go about approaching people.”
“I love my job at Verdun metro station and my sales are great,” she smiles. “I like the team at L’Itinéraire. I’ve made friends and found role models who work hard and want to get ahead in life. I also volunteered to help conduct a census of homeless people in Montreal, which took place last April 24.”
Translated by Michelle Daniel