A former RCMP officer is using her mental health therapy to help others.
Michelle Aldie's small stature and sweet voice are a stark contrast to the stereotypical police officer, but it was her dream. Aldie grew up in Nova Scotia and later in life found herself in Saskatchewan to take her RCMP training.
"I graduated in 2012 and after that, I was offered a constable's position in Thompson, Manitoba. I'm from New Brunswick so I had to Google Thompson. I had always wanted to be a police officer my whole life. The RCMP was an organization I really looked up to and believed in."
While initially Aldie was stepping into something she had always dreamed of, it wasn't long before it turned into a nightmare. The environment she stepped into was nothing like what she had in mind, and it wasn't the civilians that brought her worry.
"I was bullied from day one. I don't know if I can say that it was because I was a woman. To be quite honest, most of the bullying that I endured came from two other female police officers," she says.
When Aldie responded to calls as an officer, she found that her stature was an advantage.
"My voice and communication was and is my biggest tool. I find I was really able to sit down, talk to people, listen to their stories, whereas someone else might use their stature as intimidation."
Within two and a half years in Thompson as an officer, Aldie came to the end of herself from all the bullying.
"I learned to despise going to work, I hated my job, I hated my life. Depression set in and I knew that I had to make a big change."
That's when Aldie resigned from the RCMP and stepped into being a stay-at-home mom while her husband continued working as a police officer.
From the intense nature of the bullying, Aldie worked with a lawyer in a class-action lawsuit for harassment against women in the RCMP and won.
"I really don't feel like it's something I should be congratulated on. I lost a lot more than what the lawsuit could have ever given me," she says.
In 2019 Aldie and her husband ended up separating and she now lives in Carman, Man. with her son.
"I finally got in with good therapy through Veterans Affairs, and still do it once a week. It's called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. "
Aldie has since been diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and OCD.
"I began working with polymer clay as a means of distraction and therapy. I've always been artistic but this was a whole new level."
From this form of therapy, Aldie ended up opening a store where she sells her clay earrings, along with a host of other items. The store is called Wheat & Waves, the wheat signifying her life in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and the waves as an ode to her province of New Brunswick.
"This is how I can give back. I might not be a police officer but I can give back in a different way. I've been donating 10 per cent of all proceeds to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), especially now during this difficult times."
Since opening Wheat & Waves in 2019, Aldie has hired on two more staff. Their goal is to bring awareness while ending the stigma of mental health issues as well as raise funds for CMHA to hopefully help people.
The reality of receiving mental health help
"When I was still in Thompson and severely depressed, I had suicidal ideation. I went to the hospital there and was given one day off of work for stress leave," says Aldie.
The one day wasn't enough for her and that was a starting point for Aldie to admit to herself that she needed more help.
"It was not easy to get help. The RCMP does have an inner support system but it's not an ongoing thing. It was a year ago that I was able to get support and therapy through Veterans Affairs with a lot of paperwork and questioning."
Aldie believes everyone should have access to these resources.
"I know first hand, especially from living up North and being in Northern communities, that these resources are not readily available. Often the ones that are, are an astronomical price. To get quality mental health care is not that easy."
She is hoping to help make a difference by making more mental health resources readily available.
"That's kind of my goal with Wheat & Waves, to support the CMHA so they can continue increasing the number of resources across the country."