She had loving parents and all the opportunities and privileges in the world. Then she discovered drugs.
My parents gave me a great chance at life. I grew up in a three-bedroom house in Lawrence Park, where I spent weekends riding my bike and making mud pies with my younger brother. At Christmas, my parents took us on vacations to Hawaii and London and Kenya. In the summers, we rented a cottage in Muskoka, where we built teepees and chased frogs. One year, knowing how much I loved acting and tap dancing, my parents sent me to an elite arts camp in the Catskills.
In 1992, when I was seven, we moved to a sprawling Edwardian house in Rosedale, effectively upgrading from middle class to nouveau riche. My father had risen from a working-class childhood in Montreal to the upper echelons of Bay Street finance. The new house was his prize for all he’d accomplished, a way to show the world what he could do for his family. Growing up, I was provided with unconditional love and support. My mother made a point of encouraging my artistic side, making me costumes for dance recitals and driving me to extracurricular activities.
My home life was as idyllic as a ’50s sitcom, but school was torture. In Grade 1, my parents had enrolled me at Branksome Hall, the private girls’ school in midtown. From the moment I arrived, I was constantly, cruelly bullied. Every day at recess, kids would steal my boots, stuff them with snow and hide them in the playground. I’d run around in my green stockings searching for them while the teachers rang the bell and hollered at me to get in line.
At Branksome, a school known for its academic rigour, I struggled with my studies. (I had a learning disability that wasn’t diagnosed until I was 16.) I was also a deeply sensitive and trusting child—I expressed my feelings, which only made me more vulnerable. When my mom confronted my teachers about the bullying, they’d tell her I was being too touchy, that I needed to pull up my socks and deal with it. I made a few friends in my neighbourhood—kids I would play with on weekends and after school—but I was always worried they’d discover whatever my classmates hated about me and disappear. Over the years, I developed a chameleonic tendency to change my personality for whomever I was with—a dangerous pattern that followed me into adulthood.