Meet Our 2021 Run for Women Community Champion, Christine Yanke.
Christine Yanke is a mom, a wife, an accomplished author, and Canada’s first certified YogaFit for Warriors instructor – a therapeutic practice aimed at relieving symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She is also a former client of St. Joe’s Womankind Addiction Service and knows firsthand how using alcohol and drugs to cope with stress, grief, and trauma can spiral into substance abuse. This summer, Yanke is participating in the Run for Women to raise funds for women’s mental health services at St. Joe’s. She credits the Womankind program for helping to get her life back on track after struggling with addiction.
“I feel so honoured to be supporting women’s mental health in our community,” says Yanke, an Ancaster, Ont. resident. “If you look around in your life, there is a sister, a wife, a daughter, a friend-of-a-friend who will at one point need mental health services. To them, I’d say, ‘Never give up. No matter the grief you face, the trauma you face, there is support out there.’”
Christine shared her remarkable story of recovery with us, both in the story below and in this fantastic video.
Coping with pain and loss: “I tried to cover it up and numb it”
In 2001, Yanke’s world fell apart when her husband was arrested and subsequently incarcerated. As a result, the stay-at-home mother was left to provide for her three young boys, and risked losing her home.
“Everything was coming at me from so many directions. I was left with everything to take care of, and I just couldn’t do it,” Yanke says. “I reached out to alcohol and drugs to deal with my pain, and my loss.”
As concerned friends and family watched her decline into addiction, Yanke was dealt another blow when her mother passed away suddenly.
“When my mom died, it was like a piece of my heart left. I didn’t know how to heal it, so I tried to cover it up and numb it. Then, one night, I was listening to all her favourite songs, and there was a feeling she was there saying, ‘You need to take care of yourself, you’re going to lose your boys – they’re all you have left.’”
A trauma-informed approach to care: “Healing the whole person”
With the wake-up call she needed, Yanke turned to Womankind 17 years ago to help her make positive changes to her life. In addition to a safe space for withdrawal management, Womankind provides day and residential addictions treatment, an emergency shelter for women in crises, aftercare aimed at preventing relapse, and writing workshops, among other programs.
“We use a trauma-informed approach to care as substance use often begins as a way to cope with depression, anxiety, or a tragic event,” says Kari Whitelaw, Clinical Supervisor at Womankind. “It’s part of caring for, and healing, the whole person—mind, body and spirit.”
After completing treatment, Yanke committed herself to sobriety. Her world was sent into turmoil once again, however, when her father committed suicide. Instead of turning to substances, Yanke used the strategies she learned at Womankind to find healthier coping mechanisms.
“You have to go through trauma – not around it – to get to the other side,” Yanke says. “I used the tools and techniques I learned at Womankind to recognize triggers. I found new activities I wanted to do, such as running, a community of people who supported my sobriety, and engaged with my kids.”
In so doing, Yanke also trained to become a yoga instructor, and combined physical activity and mindfulness to come to terms with the emotions she had been suppressing. This led to her diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD, and the next phase in her healing journey. “When I first heard my diagnosis, I thought, ‘Now I know there’s something wrong with me. Now I can do something about it,’” she adds. “Through therapy and yoga, I set myself up knowing I was never going to go back to who I was before.”
“The determination and hope to keep going”
Today, Yanke gives back to the program that supported her recovery by volunteering at Womankind to provide YogaFit for Warrior classes to other women. In sharing her experience, she helps them reconnect with their bodies to overcome trauma so they, too, will be equipped with the strategies, and strength, to win the battle against addiction.
“Going back to Womankind feels like home,” Yanke says. “It’s been such a rewarding part of my journey to share my story with these women and provide them with the determination and hope to keep going.”
As the Run for Women community champion, Yanke is asking others to join her in supporting mental health programs at St. Joe’s by participating in the event, or donating to the cause. Last year’s event saw about 950 people register for a route of their choice, raising more than $100,000 for women’s mental health services. This year, the hope is to match, or exceed, that figure to ensure women in the community have access to the very best mental health care when they need it.
Registration has now closed. To donate to women’s mental health programs, click here. To help Christine raise funds in support of women’s mental health programs at St. Joe’s, visit the Team Christine for Womankind sponsorship page.