Josephine Kaldenhoven, 23, has life experiences long past her age and is eager to share them with the rest of the world. (Photo supplied)

Josephine Kaldenhoven, 23, has life experiences long past her age and is eager to share them with the rest of the world. (Photo supplied)

In Our Valley: Josephine Kaldenhoven

Not letting herself get in the way

Turning lemons into lemonade, Josephine Kaldenhoven works through everything thrown her way and no longer lets mental illness control her fate.

Born and raised in Kitimat, Josephine spent her childhood figure skating at the local rinks.

Though Josephine graduated from St. Anthony’s Catholic School, she keeps her spirituality open to all religions.

“I believe there’s truth in all religions, but I hold closely the spirit and energy that there is some sort of creator out there,” Kaldenhoven said.

“Growing up I always felt like there was a spirit with me, […] I call it the great creator because I just don’t know and don’t want to cut down the truths within any religion.”

Josephine has always had a love for arts and crafts as her parents have always encouraged her to be the most creative version of herself. Developing her creative skills at a young age, Josphine is grateful for the influences she was raised with as they helped her develop her hands-on skills.

“I’m a fairly crafty person and I love working with my hands. […] My mom is a very talented visual artist, so from an early age, she would encourage me to paint and draw. Plus we always had papers kicking around and so I would always be colouring or writing storybooks,” Kaldenhoven said.

Flourishing in her passion for art, when Josephine got to high school she claims that St. Anthony’s art teacher really helped her advance her skills.

“Once I hit high school I had an amazing art teacher who helped me expand my abilities. She taught me that all talent is, is a learned skill that’s practised over and over again.”

Though Josephine excelled in arts and crafts all throughout her grade schooling, academically, she was falling behind her peers as she struggled with English class. However, after high school, Josephine discovered that she lives with bipolar disorder which limited her academic ability to excel as she does with her crafts.

Enrolling herself into university with staff having an understanding of her mental illness, the teachers allocated more time to Josephine to finish essays and exams. This gave her the opportunity to realize that she wasn’t behind, but she just processes information differently compared to the average student.

“In high school, I couldn’t read books and I didn’t think I was a good writer until I hit university. There, they gave me extra time to write essays cause I needed it, but I didn’t know I needed that time in high school. […] The university instructors gave me an amazing opportunity to take my time and to write with passion and I did that and ended up getting 98 per cent on my final essay. Which blew my mind because I didn’t know I had that potential till I was given that extra time.”

Struggling with mental illness has always been a rollercoaster for Josephine. Though she is only 23 years of age, she’s been through a lot more than the average 20-year-old.

Growing up, Josephine always fought with mental illness but never knew what it was. She was institutionalized two times before catching herself hallucinating and driving recklessly in her late teens. In 2018, Josephine was institutionalized for the third time at the Terrace Memorial Hospital and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

“I didn’t want to accept it. […] When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had someone tell me that I had to be on medication for the rest of my life, I felt trapped.”

For two years straight, Josephine was administered medication for her disorder with police observing her, doing mental wellbeing checkups, and escorting her back to the hospital if she wasn’t taking her medication.

Though she had a hard time coming to terms with her disorder, Josephine has learned to embrace her mental disability and work through her barriers.

“In 2020, with my accumulation of time and healing, I had this realization moment where everything cleared up and I thought, you know I am bipolar and this medication is helping me. So why am I fighting it and not accepting this? And once I finally accepted it, it was like the world manifested into my favour,” Kaldenhoven said.

“There was help there but unless you do the work yourself nothing is going to get done; you reap what you sow, right?”

Thankful for her family and sponsors who helped her through her trying times, Josephine is now three years sober in September and has completely flipped her life around.

“My sponsor is such a beautiful woman, she’s walked the walk and talked the talk and she helps me realize things that I’ve never thought of myself,” Kaldenhaven said

“Also, my dad is a big support system in my life, he helps me realize things with clarity and logic; he’s like a pillar of strength and I wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for him.”

Keeping her energy high and happily looking at life through a positive lens, Josephine has now dove into many passions she’s always aspired to achieve, but never had the clear mental state she needed.

“Recently I made 15 mental health toolkits for the community and handed them out to people who reached out to me via social media. I do free tarot readings as I believe I am blessed with a clairvoyant gift to read and communicate messages with energy to people who are seeking answers. I am a certified crystal healer through Cisco Traders and I believe in the power of healing and love.”

Josephine says that she’s not leaving Kitimat anytime soon and is still in awe about everything the town has to offer.

Wanting people to learn from her story, Josephine emphasized that help is always available to those in need, no matter how hopeless they feel.

“I don’t want people feeling alone, I know it’s cliche to say you’re not alone but you’re really not, everything is energy and it’s all around you.”

READ MORE: In Our Valley – Bill Dawson

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