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New business helping woman overcome mental illness

Cathy Dobson There were days Monika Tihanyi could barely get out of bed. There are still days when she struggles.
Monika Tihanyi and her line of Monika’s Home Made Dog Treats.Cathy Dobson
Monika Tihanyi and her line of Monika’s Home Made Dog Treats. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

There were days Monika Tihanyi could barely get out of bed.

There are still days when she struggles.

Despite decades of crippling depression and anxiety, the 45-year-old Sarnia woman says she never gave up; not in her personal life, not professionally, and not in business.

“I want to give others hope if they don’t think there’s any reason to get out of bed.  I want people to see that I was a person in a very, very bad place…and look at me now.

“I want to talk openly about mental illness because I have nothing to lose,” she said.  “If I can help just one person to realize what’s going on and to seek help, I’m happy to talk about it.”

Tihanyi was born and grew up in Hungary. She moved to Sarnia in 1999 after years of living and working in places like Italy, Greece and aboard a cruise ship.

“I’m a traveller,” she explained. “I’ve had depression since my 20s. No matter where I went or what I did, it was there.”

She came to Canada because she regards it as “the best place in the world” for its standard of living, taxation, and medical care.

Tihanyi took a year-long course at Lambton College and became a personal support worker, finding work immediately. But she was absent for long periods, eventually leaving that job although she says she loved it.

“I felt a lot of pressure and a lot of stress. I want to do everything perfectly and I put that stress on myself. I became overwhelmed.”

The anxiety attacks became paralyzing and she began planning her suicide.

“I was very lucky because my neighbour is a nurse and she got me to the emergency to get help,” she said.  “I was in pain and I felt worthless.

“I thought the world would not miss me if I was gone.”

Three weeks later, she saw a psychiatrist for the first time and her life began turning around. Little by little, Tihanyi is putting her life back together.

“I tried five different medications and it took five years to get it right,” she said. It also took one-on-one counselling at Canadian Mental Health, as well as peer support from the Lambton Mental Wellness Centre.

“I learned to handle it and focused on a little light knowing that things would get better,” said Tihanyi.  “I also had these two barking angels that saved my life.

“In the darkest time, I knew I couldn’t kill myself because my dogs need me.”

And now, her dogs have inspired a new business. She had tried her hand at homemade crafts before but they didn’t sell.  However, early sales of Monika’s Home Made Dog Treats are promising.

“I can’t work for someone else for more than two or three months because the stress is too much for me,” she said.  “But I don’t want to be a burden to my partner, who is my biggest support, and I want to be in control of my situation.”

She rents space three days a week at The Nut Bar market, just inside the front doors of Canadian Tire on London Road.

There she sells four varieties of all-natural dog treats, and her own “Barking” line of skin care products for dogs. There are bath bombs (2 for $4); essential oils ($12); paw wax ($14); and dry shampoo if your dog doesn’t like baths ($7). Beef liver, chicken, tuna and peanut butter (vegan) dog treats sell for .50 or $1 each.

On the days she is not at the market, Tihanyi is at home baking dog treats.

“People are slowly discovering me,” she said.  “I’m not making a lot of money but people are buying them and recommending them to their friends.

“I measure my success by celebrating the little things.”

Monika’s Home Made Dog Treats is open at The Nut Bar on Fridays and Saturdays 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. and on Sundays noon – 5 p.m.

Got an interesting business story?  Contact Cathy at [email protected] or call 226-932-0985.

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