At just four years old, Michelle found herself in a situation that no child should ever find themselves in: she became the victim of childhood sexual abuse. During the years of the abuse, Michelle’s abuser taught her many messages about herself including the message that she was damaged goods and unloveable. Despite these experiences Michelle grew into a beautiful happy child that loved life and was surrounded by the love and support of friends and family.
As Michelle entered high school she was popular, athletic, and a good student. She had a bright future ahead of her until her whole world flipped upside down. Just before Michelle’s 16th birthday she started to struggle with poor concentration, headaches, and dizziness. A routine doctors exam showed that Michelle was starting to lose her vision. Over the next two years Michelle lost the rest of her sight, leaving her with only light perception in both eyes. The cause of this drastic change was a brain condition that crushed the optic centre in her brain. Given her new life situation Michelle slipped into a deep depression, using self harm, drugs, and alcohol as a way to deal with the anger, grief, and despair she was feeling.
Despite all the darkness in her life a point came when Michelle realized that she had a choice to make: she could stay in the darkness alone and angry, or she could take a step towards the light and let those around her love and support her. As Michelle learned the valuable lesson of how to ask for help her world started to open up again. Once again Michelle became the funny, outgoing, and motivated young person she had previously been. Once again her world flipped upside down but this time for the better. In the spring of 2010 a four-footed poodle friend bounced into Michelle’s life. Thomson, Michelle’s Dog Guide, gave her the independence she needed to start to dream about her future again, and believe deep down inside that despite being blind she could do all the things she had planned for her life prior to losing her sight.
In an attempt to give meaning to some of her struggles Michelle made the decision to step onto a stage and share her story. Over the years Michelle has travelled all across Canada sharing her story with youth, families, community organization, and corporations. She has spoken in high schools, colleges and universities, and board rooms. Michelle inspires audiences with her ability to make them critically think about what disability looks like, recognize the power of choice and vulnerability in their own life, and find the humour in some of the darkest situations.
Today Michelle enjoys downhill skiing, swimming, spending time with friends, cooking, and being creative. Michelle lives independently in downtown Toronto and navigates the busy streets with her trusty Dog Guide by her side. When Michelle is not on the stage she can be found in the classroom working towards her law degree so that one day soon she can become a stronger advocate for people with disabilities. Michelle also spends some of her time being a spokesperson for both the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides as well as The Canadian National Institute for the Blind.
Michelle openly shares her experiences of overcoming adversity and embracing diversity, connecting with her audiences at a very personal, emotional, and relatable level. She believes that we all have the power of choice and given the right support we can survive and learn from any challenge. Michelle can speak to your audience on the topics of:
- Disability and advocacy
- Redefining personal struggle
- Overcoming mental illness, self harm, and addiction
- Dealing with bullying
- Sexual consent and the power of being a survivor
- Sexual abuse and the criminal justice system
- Making meaning where there seems to be no meaning
Michelle encourages her audiences to let go of the past and look to the future with bright eyes and a positive outlook. Her goal is to educate, motivate and inspire others to find peace, happiness and achieve their goals, even in the darkest of days. If your interested in booking Michelle for your event please fill out the form found on the “speaking” page.