“Dec. 1, 2019 was the day my life changed forever, the day I almost became a murder victim.”
This is how Monique Cusson introduces the story of her recent journey, beginning with that life-altering incident, in a video she posted to social media on March 8, 2021 – International Women’s Day.
Though it would leave her with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), Cusson stresses in the video that the incident did not leave her victim.
“Although a part of me, of who I was, did die at the end of 2019, I am alive and thriving,” comments Cusson. “That to me definitely says I am a survivor, wouldn’t you agree?
“Trauma will inevitably define you. The thing is, you get to choose how.”
For the past year, Cusson has been busy redefining herself, and has gone from novice woodworker to artisan and entrepreneur, having recently relocated her home-based business, The She Shed by the Shuswap Store, to a new commercial space in Salmon Arm at 4850 10a Ave. NE (near the Highway 97B intersection). The space includes her workshop and a gallery that contains her work, alongside the work of 12 other artists from the Shuswap, the Okanagan and as far as 100 Mile House. It’s a dream made reality for Cusson, prompted by a nightmare.
“It riddled me with PTSD and I spent two months not able to leave my house if I didn’t have somebody with me,” said Cusson, explaining she would at times find herself incapacitated on the bathroom floor after the Dec. 1 incident, having to pull herself together to pick up her kids from school.
Asked during a March 2020 visit with her therapist what it is she likes to do for herself, Cusson said the only reply she could come up with was, “Make things pretty.” She was advised to roll with it. Later, she would find online a picture of a planter that appealed to her. Not having the money to buy it, she decided to make it herself. Cusson described her first attempt as “god-awful,” so she tried again. Cusson said her planter was beautiful, functional and, because she was broke, she sold it.
That was just over a year ago.
With her third planter, Cusson followed the advice she received to set up a business page on Facebook, and immediately began to receive custom orders.
While out in Blind Bay searching for driftwood, Cusson said she ended up on the doorstep of a local artisan woodworker. She said he eventually took her under his wing, helping develop her woodworking skills.
Later, after Cusson was no longer able to work out of her home, and had outgrown space allotted to her in Blind Bay, Cusson found herself in search of her own space. About a year after her first planter, the stars aligned to bring her business to its current location.
All of this is part of Cusson’s story of how a traumatic experience pushed her to be where she wants to be in her life. She shares this story with the hope it might help others who have had similar experiences.
“When you go through something like that, you’re left with the ‘whys’ and you don’t get answers,” said Cusson. “No amount of therapy can answer the ‘why.’ And maybe that was the why, I thought, maybe I lived so that I can help other people get out of that.”
Cusson also hosts an outdoor market at her business on Saturdays from 5 to 9 p.m.
The gallery itself is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, 1 to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, visit The She Shed by the Shuswap Store on Facebook.
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