There is No Perfect Offering

There is No Perfect Offering

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Life's Adventures Continues...

Yes, it has been more then a few months since I have written a blog. I am still here, I am still learning and life has been full of adventures. And right now..I'm in Ireland

But, before we get to how I came to Ireland, lets back up a few months.

A few months ago , a friend nominated me for the Courage to Comeback Award. This is an award giving out by Coast Mental Health in Vancouver, British Columbia. Canada. These awards are giving to folks who have gone through tough times, and give back to their community.

This event is also the major fundraiser for Coast Mental Health and helps to support their programs they run to help folks who have mental health issues. Its one of the biggest events in Vancouver and is the Biggest fundraising event in Western Canada.

 I was honored that my friend thought that I was worthy of the award, but had no thought that I would win. So, we filled out the application form, sent it off and I just kept doing what I do, not expecting to hear anything.

Now during this time I was also working on my plans for my life long trip to Ireland. I had the tickets booked and I was working on where I was going to go etc. I am traveling solo for the first 7 weeks, via public transit, then a friend is joining me July 1st, and we are going to rent a car for 3 weeks- she is driving!

My departure date was May 12th, at 5;00 am. My flight was originally May 10th, but when I was nominated I figured I should bump it a few days as the awards were May 10th, am I ever glad I did. 

Just over 6 weeks before my departure, I had a therapy session and my therapist asked me if I had any more speaking engagements before my trip. I told her I had one, up at the local high school and that I was going to take it easy as I didn't want to be tired for my trip. Well, the saying of " best laid plans of mice and men often go astray" comes to mind....

That night I got a phone call from  the Chair of Coast mental Health Lorne Segal, telling me i had won the award...I was gob smacked and the 1st thing I said was.."No Shit" He also told me things were about to get busy and it would be a roller coaster ride, and he as right.

The next 6 weeks were amazing, exhausting, exhilarating, and a huge learning curve. I was flown over to Vancouver for a newspaper, radio and TV interview. I had my own "personal assistant" for those 6 weeks to help keep me organized and for support and if i had any questions. She was beyond amazing!!! Then a production team came to the island and followed me around for a day, into the class for my presentation etc. They were also going to put together a video of my story that would be presented before I went on stage. My family and a friend were interviewed, and  had to go shop for clothes. had to write a speech, as I was going to read it to 1800 people at a convention center when I got the award. As were the other 4 recipients.

Also during these 6 weeks, I had a couple of emergencies to deal with. The 1st one was I got home from clothes shopping one time and my husband needed to be rushed to the hospital as we thought he was having a heart attack- he is fine, it was a lung infection. The next was when I had booked a whole day off to relax, get a reflexology session and chill for the day. As I arrived at the house of my friend, her house caught fore- they are all safe, but it was a little hairy and I stayed and supported her and her family until her husband could get home later that afternoon.

Needless to say I had to go see my therapist and work through and process these events- especially the fire- man that moves fast. I had flashbacks of that event- but withing a few days- like a normal person, not months or years later . I then realized that during all of these events, as stressed as I was..I never dissociated or lost any time. I had always wondered what would happen if I was faced would an emergency- would I disconnect and loose time. Well, I didn't these times. Sure..I dissociated like any normal person does with an emergency- and deals with the emergency and do what needs to be done, but I didn't loose time or memory- this is HUGE!!!!

There were so many years in my life where this wasn't even a possibility.

Also, during the whole awards stuff, interviews etc...Coast Mental Health staff were amazing with support, asking me what I needed, having that support there, checking in on me in so many ways. They have no idea how much this was appreciated. very often, when folks who have a mental illness or have had trauma are asked to talk, or do a presentation etc, there is no support for them, and this can cause problems. As much as I love speaking and educating, it is emotionally exhausting and i have to make sure my supports are in place and I do lots of self care. Coast mental Health gets that! These folks were amazing. I

I spoke of tough stuff, and I didn't realize how much tension I was holding while waiting for the story to be released until the time came.I can tell my story, but I have no control how others are going to report on it.  When it came out- the 1st I heard was the radio interview, then I saw the print then the TV. It was amazing. My story was told, but it was told with respect, caring, sensitivity, and it was not sensationalized. My story was honored. As my friend wrote to me something like this - "Your story has been honored, the universe has honored you, another step in realizing the world could be safe"

Then it was time to go to Vancouver to receive the award. The  night before the award I met the other recipients and wholly cow- they are all amazing and I often wondered what I was doing there with them. On the big night, my best friend, my son, and 3 other wonderful friends were there to share this gala event with me, and my heart sung knowing they were there with me. And I knew everyone back home were there with me in their hearts and minds.

And remember what I said about support from the organization. My personal assistant came and got me when it was time for me to go up on stage- I was the first speaker.. I was back stage as the video of my story was playing, and she was right there with me, checking in with me etc, it was HUGE. Then it was time to go on stage, receive  my award and give my speech. It is a moment in my life I will cherish, and having folks with e there and at home and afar supporting me was amazing.

I never planned to be doing what I am doing, it just sort of happened, and I don't keep count of what I do, but I must say it was pretty neat to see it on film etc, and what I have actually accomplished was pretty amazing.

It was an amazing and magical night, and 36 hours after giving my speech I was flying off to Ireland for my next grand adventure. I have been here now in Ireland for 4 weeks, and it has had its challenges, which I have written about on my travel blog post which I will put a link below.

And remember that fundraising- over 3 million dollars were raised.

Its now time for me to get something to eat, but thought I should write a post and let folks know what I have been up to. What have a learned about all of this...that sometimes, we have no idea what is going to happen or here life will lead, but by putting one foot in front of the other it will take us where we need to be....

those are my thoughts for the day and below are links to the awards, stories and my travel blog post.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Forget Your Perfect Offering…

Well, I have been meaning to write this blog post for the last month, but the best laid plans of mice and men, and all that jazz...also  known as life, has been keeping me busy.

It’s been an interesting month.

As usual in January, we are bombarded with making New Year’s resolutions, improving ourselves- ie lose weight, become that "Perfect Person", have the "Perfect Body" etc.  As these were flashing across my TV screen, and Facebook advertisements, I wondered if there has even been a study of the negative effects of all of these advertisements etc. I mean, portraying how to be “perfect”, you are not good enough etc  has got to have some negative affect, especially for folks who are not comfortable with who they are in their own skin.

I once again didn’t make any New Year’s resolution or maybe that was my resolution. I have enough issues without putting more on my plate. I just try to be the best that I can be day by day. Some days it’s easier than others, some days are more productive than others, and I am learning to not only live with that, but be sort of  OK with it.

About 4 months ago I had a visit with my Dr and it seems my blood sugars are up once again, so we changed medications and I have worked at becoming healthier. I am happy to say my sugar levels are down to what they were 2 years ago, so that is good news.

 I had also decided I want to work at becoming stronger for hiking so I signed up for an over 55 strength circuit training.  Of course my anxiety spiked with the thought of taking a class I know nothing about and knowing no one, and my inner dialogue kept giving me excuses of why I “cant” go, reminding  me of school gym class etc,  but am happy to say I made it to class, while 2 of them anyway.  I did enjoy it while I was there, so was surprised at my continued reluctance, and I missed a couple more because I had meetings, then decided to give it up- give myself a break, not stress about it and maybe try in the New Year. I could have pushed through if I had to, but I didn’t have to, this was not a life threatening situation.

I’m glad I was gentle with myself, and I have learned a lot since then.

I have always liked Leonard Cohen’s words  

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

So, what was the latest crack that I discovered you may ask? - Well here it is.  

While I enjoyed the circuit training class, and finally being able to be connected and feel the muscles and my body, the resistance of the machines was a trigger back to a time as a child, where I could not get away no matter how much I fought or pushed to get away. To say this was a surprise is an understatement, but it makes so much sense. Once I made this connection, I could think back to the countless times when this was the case, but I didn’t have the understanding, so I would quit. I would belittle myself, telling myself I was a failure, why even bother trying etc.

But this time it was different. This time instead of beating myself up about it, I acknowledged the challenge. I sat with it, and walked with the feelings of anger, sadness, grief that arose. I met with my therapist to get support and guidance, and let it all process. And I came to realizations of my limitations, and came up with a plan.

Instead of running away from the issue, I also pulled in another support. I really liked the instructor of the circuit training.- even if it was only 2 classes-  I told her about my processing issue, how being dyslexia can make learning a challenge etc. She was really good with it and not only supportive but aware when I was getting information overload or not understanding something. So I decided to consult her as a personal trainer, and am I ever glad I did.

Before we even met in the gym, we got together in her office and I let her know what my issues/challenges were, and what I wanted to work on. She has been nothing but supportive. Next time we met it was in the gym and we went through her plan for me, went through the exercise routine she had prepared, how to use the machines etc. There are no huge weights etc., just whatever my body can do, and that’s ok.  She checked in with me through the process to see how I was doing, it went well. Shortly after we finished I started trembling, and on the way home my body was shaking. I told myself I could go for a walk when I got home but decided against that, and here is why.

Sure, going for a walk would help release the anxiety, but it also uses the same muscles one uses to “escape” to get away. I need to retrain the brain, and the body that I was safe that there is no danger, that it was alright. So instead of going for a walk, I made myself a hot chocolate, sat in my chair with a heating blanket, held the mug in my 2 hands, and mindfully tasted the hot chocolate, noticing how the hot cup felt in my hands, what sections of the blanket was heating up etc. It took an hour, but I was able to calm down.

I am happy to say I have been back to the gym, and the first few times after the body did its shaking and trembling, but it is getting better, and I am feeling better about it, and slowly getting stronger. I went for a long walk a couple of days ago. The sun was shining and I felt good so I got outside while I could and walked for over 2 hours and I did notice a difference, which really surprised me J Not only did I feel physically stronger, I felt mentally stronger. Because I have worked at staying in the moment and working on the feeling of “needing to run” I could enjoy the moment and be relaxed during a long walk like I have never been able to do before. This is another wonderful gift.

I have another session with my trainer this week and look forward to where this will take me. 

Because I noticed another crack, I not only let the light in, but was honest and gathered support from another to help shine the light, and find more amazing discoveries. I am getting really good at noticing my cracks, and am still discovering more. But that’s OK, because by letting the light into those cracks, I discover more of myself, can make healthier choices and have a better quality of life. I was not always this comfortable with my discoveries, I would often fight it, or felt I could trust no one and would “Go it alone.” I have come a long way and am very glad of it.

None of us are perfect, we are all breathing, living entities that have had many life experiences. We all have cracks, they may be and look different, but we still have them. Instead of trying to “fix” or “Patch” these cracks, these unique experiences we have, let’s shine the light on them, and help others to shine their light on them, and you will discover your true amazing and authentic self.  It won’t always be easy, it may be painful, but if you hang in there you will discover the strength that comes from it will be much more powerful than any “Perfect body” could ever be.

Those are my thoughts for today, I wish you well and strength in your Journey

Cheers and be we]]

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Do What is Right For You...

It’s that time of year once again, the many holidays are upon us and you can feel the excitement in the air. We are bombarded by the music, lights, advertisement, movies etc. about what this time of year “should be” like for us- ie happy, warmth, love for our fellow man etc. But for some of us, we face many challenges this time of year. I know I do.

I guess I’m a bit of a walking contradiction. I do enjoy this time of year, the lights, the music and colors, and that sense of awe, wonder and magic I feel at this time. But, I also struggle with flashbacks, memories that are not warm and cozy. Broken sleep and spikes of anxiety, I find the everyday things seem to take more of my energy, so I really have to choose wisely.

As some of you know, for the last 8 months, I have been working on sitting with - (meaning not distracting myself away from) - whatever emotions come up, and this month has been no different. There have been the challenges of the Ghosts of Christmas Pasts visiting, but there have been wonderful moments of Christmas Present. Like I said, a walking contradiction J

I think really we all struggle in some way this time of the year, but it is rarely talked about. I don’t know if that because we all “believe” that it has to be “just right” because at least we feel some form of control, or we all have these “expectations” of how it should “just be”, but in reality we don’t have a lot of control over much of life on a daily basis, let alone this time of year with added stressors etc.

 Those of us with a mental illness or mental health challenges can find this time of year even more challenging.  This is where self-care and compassion should be front and center.

This is what my self-care looks like.

 Pots of tea, sometimes on my own, often with friends and family. I have booked an appointment with my therapist- I saw her last week, and I am in contact with here via email over the holidays. I have booked extra appointments with my family Dr. When I saw him last Monday he said, “I imagine this is not your favorite time of year”, and in a lot of  ways it’s not, so we had a good chat about that. I see him again tomorrow, and will book another appointment when I am there. He can’t “fix” the issues for me, but having a sounding board, sure helps, and often by talking about the issue- instead of keeping the conversation going in my head- gives me clarity and new perspective. 

Did I mention pots of tea? Warm blankets fresh out of the dryer, a good book. Drinking tea out of one of my favorite cups and going to lunch with a friend.

 I am working on being mindful of when my brain wants to hijack itself into the hyper or anxiety mode, and do what I need to do to ride that out, and not act on it-just so you know, I am not always successful, but I’m working on it. If I need to go into town I try to do so when it is not too busy, like before noon, or on a week day. I have my essentials- like tea J-  Last week I stopped at the local tea shop, picked up my various teas, and now  do not have to go into town this coming week. I know, I may have a tea problem J

 And unlike  the past, I allow my emotions to come up- whatever they are, feel them, sit with them, and this year there has been moments of grief, in all its various forms. Sometimes it’s a quiet sadness as I think about friends who are no longer here, or of friends who are struggling. Sometimes it’s a quiet grief that last a moment or two with a quiet tear. And sometimes it’s the body wrenching, snot nosed, red eye grief that takes over my whole body and I am exhausted after, that is also ok. . I have learned, for the most part, not to question why this is happening, but allow myself to feel it, process it and let it pass.

As hard as this may all sound, by doing this, it allows me to receive and enjoy moments of Christmas present. Examples of these are, making Christmas cake with my son- that’s our tradition, listening to Christmas music and dancing around the kitchen as I make more shortbread, and the smiles of the faces of those I give the shortbread to. Stopping to notice the magnificent hawk that is in a tree. Stepping out into the night, when insomnia visits, and gazing up at the stars, or fog, as we have had a lot of that, and being still for those moments. Laughing with friends and family, looking at Christmas lights and putting up the Christmas trees. With each of these moments, I am full of gratitude because I remember times when these were not possible.

I guess what I am trying to say is, take care of yourself during this busy time of year. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself. This will look different for each of us. Give yourself love and compassion as you would give a friend, and remember that you are important, you matter and you are worth it.

 And remember, that it may not feel it right now, but it will get better, and you are not alone. Reach out for help if you need it, get those supports in place ahead of time if you can. Let friends know how they can support you through this time of challenge. You do matter, you are worth it, and you are a treasure to this world.

Those are my thoughts for today, may you know you are not alone, and may you feel the universe hold you loving in its arms.


Thursday, 23 November 2017

Baby Steps Add...

Baby Steps Add Up.…

Well, once again it has been a “few” months since my last blog.  It has been a time of learning and growth, and during these times I don’t have a lot of excess energy or brain power to write, and, I am learning too be OK with that.

I had spent the rest of the summer and the early part of fall being mindful, sitting still, quiet walks, alone time and processing. Yes, it was hard, and yes it was worth it. This was another step that was needed for me to get where I am now.

During this time, I started thinking I wanted to learn more about my condition, Dissociative Identity Disorder. By this, I mean I wanted to learn the science behind it. But did I want to go to school for the next 10 years? No, not really. It was then that the universe provided.

I had gotten word that some service agencies here were holding a workshop “Dissociation 101: How to work with people who have experienced complex and chronic trauma” They had invited someone called Christine C. Former from Calgary.  She is a member of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation-(I.S.S.T.D.) - I had not heard of her, but I had heard about the I.S.S.T.D.  and at one time had been a member when I could get their student membership.  They are the foremost experts in this field.

So, I thought about this workshop for a while. I asked myself “Why would I want to take this workshop?” It was a big chunk of money for me, and I wanted to make sure I was doing it for the right reasons. The answer was that I wanted to be able to listen and talk to someone who knows the science behind this condition and has access to the studies and research that I don’t. I wanted to make sure that what I was saying in my talks and workshops were correct, and I wanted to get the latest information, theories etc. so I could share them with my audiences.   

Once I understood why I wanted to be there, I sent an email to the contact person to see if I could take it- as I am not a service provider or affiliated with any organization. I thought all I could do is ask. So, I sent an email telling the agency who I was, what I do, why I wanted to take it etc. and asked if I would be able to take the workshop, and the answer came back that I could.

So last month, during an 18 hour weekend workshop, I learned the science behind dissociation. I learned that of the psychiatric conditions, this is one the most studied, and the most scrutinized.  We know what causes this, that’s more then we know about many of the other conditions. We have thousands of studies- decades of scientific research to back this up.

I learned that what I have been saying/teaching, and my understanding of what goes on in the brain and the central nervous system is spot on, but now I have the science behind it.  When I give my presentation I sometimes wonder “Do I need to go to school to learn about this?” And I have come to the conclusion that I do not. There are experts out there, doing the research, it’s out there if people want to read up and study and get more information. What I do have and can give, is a unique perspective that comes from lived experience, from someone who has been there, gone through the wars and come out the other side. And I am learning that this is pretty special in itself.

On the first day, we all introduced ourselves, of course I was the only “non-professional” there- and I did disclose I live with this condition. I did this because for me, my childhood was full of secrets, and I no longer need to keep this a secret. I also reassured the group that I am not going to turn into a Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde, and that this condition is nothing like Hollywood portrays. I told the group I would not be switching like Hollywood shows.  The facilitator- Christine said something like “Well, if you do, I got it”- she is also a therapist J

I also told the group that it did my heart good to see so many people interested and willing to learn and thanked them for their courage to come and learn about something that can be scary if you don’t understand it.  I have been speaking publicly about living with this condition for about 12 years, it’s nice to see that the community sees and understands the need to better understand this condition and learn how they can better help their clients.

It was an amazing weekend, I learned tons, met some lovely people, made more connections and came away even more self-assured that what I am doing is what I am meant to do. When you work on your own, you do have times you doubt yourself, or at least I do. I have put out the offer to those folks at the workshop that if they have questions, or would like me to come and talk to them, or their group, about what it is like to live with this condition, I am more than willing to do so.

As I said, it was an amazing workshop, and I met some lovely people and some asked me really good questions and great conversations happened. It was really cool when someone told me they recognized my name from the article I wrote, - someone had forwarded it to him. Someone else came up to me and said...” Since you’re the one expert here, what do you think of the workshop?”  I smiled and said, “Awe, thanks”.  I told her the workshop was great, and everything the facilitator was saying was right on, and that it was good to learn the science behind the condition. I now have a better understanding physiologically what was happening in my body and brain when I was switching, memory lapses etc., I now understand. And I also realized how far I had come.  That is pretty amazing, and powerful.

One morning following the workshop I was going for a walk through the woods and I was thinking of how far I have come in this healing journey of mine. I thought back to the days before I was diagnosed and thought I was crazy, losing my mind and at times, wondered if I had early onset Alzheimer’s. I wondered why other people could seem to function and remember appointments, to pay bills, etc. and I couldn’t. I wondered if life would ever get better, or even if there was a “better.” Those were some dark days. During those days I could never imagine I would be where I am now, doing what I am doing, and being able to walk into a room full of strangers, all professionals, and not only feel confident about who I am and what I know, but believe, and know in my bones that I have something to offer. 

It took a long time to get here, a lot of work, a lot of tears, a lot of support. There were many moments of doubt, and I know I will still have those moments now and then. I know I will have good days, and not so good days, but during those not so good days, I know it will get better.

I also know that I am here, not because of giant leaps, but because of thousands and thousands of baby steps, some so small they were microscopic.

Sometimes we can become overwhelmed by the enormity of a task, I know I do. Things can seem so big that it just overwhelms us and we don’t know where to start. 

I want to tell you that things change when we make little steps. Sometimes, when we are struggling we can’t seem to make a full step, I understand that so well. When those times arrive, do baby, or  micro steps. What is a micro step you may ask?  If you are breathing, that is a micro step forward!

The steps don’t need to be huge, because many little steps add up.

NASA did not decide to land a man on the moon, then do it. It took many years and many steps, and a lot of support to get there. I didn’t get where I am, and develop the ability to do what I can now do because I thought of it. It took many years, many steps, and a lot of support. But, like landing the man on the moon, being where I am today is also pretty frigging amazing!

Those are my thoughts for today, may you be kind to yourself during this journey we call life.

Cheers and be well
PS- here is a link to The I.S.S.T.D.

Here is a link to Christine C. Former, she was amazing, authentic, knowledgeable and funny J

Monday, 24 July 2017

The Beauty of Stillness...

It has been 7 months since my last fresh blog, I have reposted some earlier blogs that I felt fit, but it has been awhile since I have been able to write a fresh blog, and hopefully this will be worth the wait.

 As very often happens, I start writing thinking it’s going to go one way, but it takes on a mind of it in and goes somewhere else, kind of like life. So make a tea or coffee, put your feet up, relax and join me for the ride.

In the early part of May, I decided I needed a serious break so I took some time off of advocating. Now don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, and I think I do it well, but I was running on empty. I had two more opportunities to talk to high school students, but I was beyond exhausted. So after some serious soul searching I decided to decline those invitations and asked them to remember me for the following semester. I did not want to get to the point where I am talking to the students and being so tired I would be wishing I was at home in bed. This work is too important!

Unlike my past “breaks’ I am actual working at “doing nothing.”- No commitments. I am not golfing, hiking, committing to anything etc.

So, I have been spending the early mornings in my garden, drinking tea, watching the flowers open up as they are kissed by the morning sun. Observing the dew drop sparkle before evaporating, being visited by Humming birds, and gaze upon in wonder as a blue and black dragon fly lands on a bouquet of crimson roses. Momentarily, we are both still.

I have been engulfed by the fresh light scent of newness as the world awakens, accompanied by the cornucopia of flowered perfumes that lightly and fleetingly waft through the air, carried by gentle ever-changing breezes.

I love my quiet time in the garden, but it did not start out that way, it was anything but.

In early May when I took myself and my tea out to the garden, it was painful to sit still. I guess the sitting still was not painful- I do have a very comfortable chair- it was the mind that would not settle that was the painful part. I would sit, see a weed and I had this belief and urge that “I had to pick that weed now”- when in reality, the weed would still be there in 20 minutes, half an hour, tomorrow etc.  My mind would remind me of all the things I needed to do, places I “had” to go, things I “should be doing” etc.  It was anything but relaxing.

In those moments, it was hard to sit. I used all the mindfulness tools I had, feeling myself in the chair, focusing on my breathing, feeling my feet on the ground etc. It seemed strange because the more I sat, the more painful it got. My skin would feel like it was stinging, my joints would hurt, I would feel a heaviness and aching in the center of my chest, my ears would ring etc. At times I just wanted to run.

My mind would think “Well, this is no bloody fun and anything but relaxing!” Seeing my canoe I would think “I have to get that out, it’s summer, I am going to run out of time” and other varying thoughts. I knew these thoughts were my way of trying to escape what I was feeling, so with diligence, and at times all the energy I had, I slowly and lovingly brought myself back to the present, to my breathing etc. 

I must admit, I was more than a little surprised by this. When I decided to take a break I thought I would just come go out to my garden, watch the bees, relax, nothing to it- well, like this blog going where it wants to go, life can be like that also.

For a while, the more I sat, the more difficult it got. I did not understand why I was having such a hard time with this, I have had therapy, I practice mindfulness throughout my days, I have come a long way, I’m no longer dissociating, why is this simple act of relaxing in my garden so bloody hard? My husband was back east visiting his kids, I had no commitments etc. It just didn’t make sense, it’s not like I was sitting there all day, or on a week long mindfulness retreat. I continued to sit, and struggle, and sit.

Some mornings were easier than others, but I persevered, and I’m glad I did.

I was starting to notice moments when I could actually relax, they were fleeting at first, but they became more frequent and stayed longer. Sure, I would still get the body sensations, but by allowing them to come and acknowledge them, they would also leave sooner.

Then I had this huge epiphany, I have never ever been able to relax in my garden. I could work in the garden, weed, plant, walk through it, but I have never been able to sit in my garden, relax, and enjoy.

 I needed to honor this breakthrough. I purposefully made a couple of spots in my garden where I could sit, view from different angles, and have a sacred place to enjoy and re-coup. I brought in various rocks I had collected, a piece of driftwood a friend brought me during a time of struggle and I smudged both places. One spot I can sit in the early morning and watch the sun come over the trees and when the sun gets to warm I go to the 2nd spot- it is two walls of lattice, an arbor and all are covered by a vine that provides shade. In the late afternoon/early evening the sun shines on this 2nd spot, but the 1st spot is now in shade. After all these years, having the ability to relax in my garden, and not just relax, but enjoy it is a true gift.  

As with pretty much all of my positive epiphanies, and realizations, there is usually the other side of the coin. As I have said before, this is the trauma therapy. While it is wonderful and invigorating to find these new discoveries- this time, the beauty of sitting, feeling safe  and relaxing in my garden, the realizations and memories of times where the exact opposite happened  would come up and needed to be looked at.  And while these memories are not as “devastating” as some of the other work I have done, and while I am able to do this work at home, and not be in crisis, this work is just as exhausting. This also, does not make the work any less important, or any less powerful. In fact it may be more powerful, think of the airlines that have crashed because of a seemingly small, insignificant bolt or piece that has failed.

As I write this, I realize that while these realizations are not as “loud”, as some of my past work, they are just as important. This is why I need the quiet of my garden and just be. I need to sit quietly, walk quietly and be quiet so these oh so important stories can rise to the top, be heard, be validated, processed and felt. For now, that is my work and I know it will pay off.

Years ago my psychiatrist said to me “It’s a poor man who does something for only one reason.” I am planning a solo trip to Ireland next year, a land I have wanted to visit since I was a child, but never imagined I ever would. I know there will be stressors and I plan on going “turtle speed” Not be a tourist who is running around to “see” as much as they can. I’m taking it slow, or planning to, and I know I will be tested in many ways. One will be the mind thinking “I have to go here, there, have to see this, that” etc.” I know I will not see all of it, but I want to enjoy what I do see and experience, get to know the people, the land, and maybe find out what has been calling me there all these years.

A few months ago I  mentioned to someone what I was planning and told them I would like to visit one of the Aran islands- as well as many other islands- for a few days. Their reply was “Oh I have been there, but you can see it all in one day.” That may be true, you may be able to “see” it all in one day. But I want to feel it, be it, and experience it. I want to be in the moment and not think about where I have to go to or rush off next. I want to be in the present and receive all the gifts this brings.

 I know the work I am doing now, will allow me to experience this, and when things do go sideways, it will help me to come back to the present and calming much sooner.

Those are my thoughts for the day, I wish you all well in your journey and may you find beauty in those moments of stillness

Cheers and be well


Tuesday, 20 December 2016

My Christmas Wish For You...

It is the Winter Solstice!

The shortest day of the year, a time when the darkness in longest, a time to gather inside, and snuggle down. It is a few days away from Christmas, and there is much excitement in the air.

Since it has been awhile since my last post, this will be a longer post than normal. After all, it is the day of darkness, and the season of abundance, so tonight is a perfect night to read a long post.

So are your ready? Make a cup of tea, snuggle down in your favourite chair, and relax. Turn off your phones, and put whatever you are doing on hold. Take a deep breath, relax and enjoy.

During the past month I  have been in a ringette tournament, been sick with a flu  bug, had a cold from Hell, dealing with day to day challenges, a lap top computer that had died on me,getting a new one and  then having to exchange it three times. Put the excitement for the Christmas season on top of that and as you can see I have been a wee bit busy. It has not been bad, just busy.

And with this busyness comes my daily challenges and remembering I have to take care of myself, and then knowing I needed to do a blog post. I have been a little off balance, but it has not been too bad. I have been checking in with my therapist and family doctor, and considering everything, I am doing pretty good.

I love this time of year. It is also full of triggers and history of not great stuff. I have worked hard to make sure I  have moments of joy in the season, and one of those moments is going to cut down a Christmas tree with my son.

I love having a real Christmas tree, I love the smell, the look and the feeling of a tree in my house. Its something that speaks to me, and something that is good for my soul. I love to turn the house lights off, sit back, turn the Christmas tree lights in and just look. I does not matter how many Christmas' I have had, I still love this and it is one of my favourite, if not the most favourite thing about the holidays.

Monday afternoon was the day my son and I went on the great adventure, of finding the right, or perfect Christmas tree.

We went to a couple of places, the first place, the trees were way to small. The second  place the trees were to expensive. The third tree farm we went to, the price and in the end, the tree was just right. The elderly gentleman who owns and operates the tree farm came out with a chainsaw and cut the tree down for us. I think he is a retired logger and really enjoys doing this. My son and I put the tree on the roof of the car and drive home.

This is a magical time of the year. What happened next, happens to me each year. I know I should not be surprised, but I am each and every time.

As I was driving home, the friction of the car passing through the  air makes the tree grow!!! It really does! When we got home, the tree was longer and wider then when we put it on the car.I just start laughing.

My son takes the tree off the roof rack and later on I prepare to bring it into the house. This was not as easy task, as the tree is way wider then the door. I put the tree stand on it, and then with some strength, I pull the tree through the door. I had already trimmed the tree, but the top of it reached our eight foot ceiling. I placed it in the corner, in front of two bookcases, and all you can see of them is the top left corner of one! It is a huge tree, big and bushy, you can't see through it and it and makes the house smell wonderful. I love it.

After I got it up, and secured it,  I pull out a couple of dead needles and notice some straw on one of the branches. I reach in, up to my arm pits, I told you it was a big tree, pulled out the straw and low and behold, in my hand was a birds nest, no shit, a real birds nest made out of straw, about four inches across!

I could not believe this, this has never happened  before and I thought, " I wonder if this means its going to be a very special Christmas." I am now in the process of preserving that nest.

Later that night, I decorated the tree. This year I have made some glass icicles and given them as gifts and made some for my tree and I really like how they look on this gigantic tree.After the decorations and ornaments were put on, I turned off the house lights, breathed in the lovely pine scent, sat back in quiet solitude and looked at the tree, and thought of this past year, of all the blessings I have in my life, and of all the people who have helped me get to where I am today.

I thought back to when I first started my journey, of all the dark days, confusion, and unbelievable pain I experienced. Back then, every time I would make progress,something else would come up. It was like having a big wound, a scab would grow over it, and then I would have to pull it off again, exposing the raw emotions to the air, and my God, it hurt, it stung, and there were days I wondered if it was all worth it. It took so much energy to put one foot in front of the other,let alone get dressed and go outside, and there were many days I could not do the former.

I thought about the days and nights of darkness, real darkness deep in my soul, I could not see the light,I wasn't even sure it existed.  I was exhausted, I did not know how I was going to make it through the next 15 minutes, let alone the next day.To top it off I was terrified of the world, terrified of my illness, terrified of not knowing where my life was heading.

As I sat and gazed upon my beautiful, full tree, I then started thinking about some people I know who are beginning their journey. I wondered how they were doing, where they were in their journey and hoping that the can hang on and feel and deal with what they need to, and eventually come out the other end a healthier and happier person.

I remember when I started looking at the circumstances that caused me to dissociate. The very thought of doing this scared the shit out of me and I spent much energy distracting myself from those pesky emotions. But in time, I realized I needed to deal with it all if I was going to move forward. As the process continued, I realized that the fear was holding me back, and what was hiding in the deep dark recesses of my mind,would loose their power once the light was shone upon them.

 I thought about how I needed to feel the old pain and hurts,to have space for the new,so that I could be at a place where I am now. A place where I can feel the love people have for me, a place where I am not ashamed of who I am or what I have been through, a place where I am connected to humanity, my friends and my family.

I was not always connected to people. In fact, because of what happened to me, I had put up walls around me, and dissociated from the human race. Some use drugs and alcohol to numb, my drug of choice was dissociation. This did help me to survive as a child, kept away the pain, but it isolated me and shut me off from all positive interactions. It also stoped me from trusting others.

I realize now, why I did not trust, and I guess I knew back then why I did not trust, but I knew of no alternative, as I  had had very little experience of that.Not only did I not trust others, but because I could not trust the world, I did not trust myself. What I mean by this, is that I did not try anything new, because I was afraid I would get into trouble if I did it wrong.

But.little by little, with the help of some wonderful knowledgeable and caring people, I slowly learned to trust them, the world and eventually myself.

So, why am I telling you this. I am telling you this because I want you to know, that no matter where you are in your journey- and lets face it, everyone is on a journey- it can get better. I'm telling you this because I want you to know that the pain, as bad and as deep as it feels, will not go on forever. I am telling you this because you can learn to trust the world, and yourself and it really can get better.I am telling you this because there is light at the end of the fog, you may not see or feel it, but it is there. I am telling you this because I want you to know that no matter what happened to you, what you had to do to survive,or what they told you, you are precious. That preciousness was shining and present the day you were born, everyone has it. Others may have  tried to put it out, dumping all the crap on it, but it is still there, and when the time is right, when you are ready, it will emerge and shine through, and you and it will be brilliant and amazing.

 My Christmas wish for you, is to know, that you are precious, that you do matter, that  you are not alone and that your life can get better.

My Christmas wish for you, is to know that you do have the strength to get through this, the strength to work through and have an amazing life.

My Christmas wish for you is that , you feel loved and special.

As I sit back at gaze at my tree, the room lights are off and the tree and its lights look amazing. I notice the icicles I have made are shining and sparkling. They look nice when the room lights are on, but in the dark they are stunning and brilliant, and are showing their true beauty.

Very much like when one looks at and works through their dark and painful issues. It may be dark, but this is a place in which you discover how strong you really are and your shining and brilliant light will get you through.

As I was walking out of the house yesterday, I look down, and on the ground is a stone that looks just like a birds egg. I pick it up and low and behold it is a birds egg. It has a little hole in it from where another bird had been at it, but besides that its whole and perfect. And its just the right size for the nest that was in my Christmas tree.

Yes, It is going to be a special Christmas

May you find Joy in unexpected places
May you feel at Peace in your corner of the world
May you find Comfort in the little things
May you feel Loved

This is my Christmas wish for you

Until next time

Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Whisper Knows....

Have you ever thought you had something figured out, or knew how something was going to go, only to find out you were wrong? Well, that has been my past 14 months. 

A year ago September I had taken an Outward Bound Women of Courage course, and as always, there was great growth, discoveries, and realizations.  I came back from that course, worked with my therapist on what had been discovered and realized with regards to my past and trauma. I figured fine, that was good, time to get back to my life. 

This has been the well-known pattern for me when working on my trauma stuff. Well, it seems, life had a different plan for me this time round. 

I had dealt with what I needed to, but things did not seem to be going as planned. It was like something was just not right and I could not put my finger on it. So I thought, “oh well, it must just be me”, and I decided to carry on as usual.  Well that did not go to well. 

Others may not have noticed but it was getting harder and harder for me to keep up with my usual things like ringette, golf, and hiking. It just seemed to take so much out of me. I enjoyed it while I was doing it, but the recovery time-physically and mentally was taking longer and longer. I also noticed the same was happening with regards to socializing, I enjoyed being out with my friends, but once again recovery time and the energy it took to socialize was taking more and more out of me. 

So, I did what I usually did, take a week or two off of any commitments etc., and have some down time. I call this my mental health break. It gives me time to rest, focus on self-care etc., so I can recover and restore and then get back to the things I love. This didn’t work either.

As Robert Burns said “The best laid plans of mice and men go often askew”.

So I fumbled my way through the next few months, but things got harder and harder to do. I was not enjoy much of anything, and felt like I was losing ground. To say I was getting frustrated is an understatement. I had worked too hard to get this far, I was going to keep going, it would sort its self out. 

During all this time, every once in a while there would be this little inkling in the back of my mind, like a very soft whisper floating on the mist, trying to tell me something. But I was not listening, not until hiking in Cape Scott Park. 

My friend and hiking partner Sherry, had asked me earlier in the year if I wanted to backpack  into Cape Scott Park with her, and after some thought I foolishly said yes. Actually it was amazing 3 days,  It was  hard, but we are still laughing and talking about it, and yes we are still friends.  

So, I, my friend and her 14 year old son- brave soul- load up an away we go. It is magical up there. It was hard for me, and I know some people have no problem with it, but they are not me. But we made it, and like any good hiking or backpacking  adventures there was laughter, there was tears, there was swearing and bitching, and moments of absolute awe and wonder. 

And as often happens, growth happens during the difficult times. 

We had hit a difficult part of the trail, I was tired, cranky, had been challenged and I hit my wall-which is usually 6 hours in- and I was ready to throw it all in. I knew I hit my wall, and I also knew if I kept going I would get through it. Of course there was a ton of inner dialogue and one thing I kept telling myself was “at least it’s not as bad as The North Coast Trail”. I had done another Outward Bound course the year before and we had done a section of that trail, it brutal!!  So I carried on, and we made it there and back safely, sore as hell, but safe. This was also my 1st unguided hike, I was the only one with any experience, so I guess you could say, I was the leader. 

A couple of weeks after we got back I had an appointment with my therapist and I told her about the trip, the good, the bad, the amazing. As I’m telling her about the inner dialogue about the trail “not being as bad as the North Coast Trail”, I realized I had yet to say it was hard. I found this interesting and wondered what that was all about. I knew if I was open, gave it space and listened to that little whisper, it would tell me what it was about. And I was right.

I have come a long way since the beginning of therapy. I have worked hard at it for years. People ask me why I am “still doing this and why is it taking me so long?” fair question. 

Without going into too much detail, I tell them that for the first 20 years of my life I experienced such horrific abuse, trauma, lived in an environment that was so dangerous and harmful that I learned at a very early age to dissociate to help survive.  This abuse and absolute abject poverty and neglect started so young in my life that by the age of 3, I learned that there was no use crying when in pain, because my caregivers were not able to care for me, or do anything about it. Besides, my caregivers were often the one causing the pain or neglecting me, and my siblings. 

None of us 9 kids came out of that family undamaged. 

 If someone who was in the, military, did a tour overseas and saw war, battles, where their very life was in danger and they thought they may die, would you begrudge them help for their PTSD, depression, anxiety etc., no matter how long it took to get better? Of course not, they should get as much help as they need for however long it takes. 

 I have had so very many tours of duty in my own war zone, and there was no R&R, no one looking out for me, and my siblings, there was nowhere to go, no backups, and those in command each had their own undiagnosed mental illness. There was no support and it still amazes me we that we all survived. 

We all had/have our own coping mechanisms, mine was dissociation. 

Now, because of very hard work and the amazing professionals who have, and continue to hold space for me and help guide me, my amazing husband and son- who have been on a huge learning curve- and friends and teammates who support and love me for who I am, I no longer dissociate on a daily basis, and in fact rarely dissociate at all, even when I am under pressure or feel stressed. I have never been so mentally healthy in my life, and life is better than it has ever been.

 If you think about it, this IS pretty amazing. 

So, back to therapy and trying to figure out why I had to keep saying the trail was not as bad as the North Coast Trail. 

If I have not mentioned it before- my trauma therapy is like peeling an onion. You start on the outside and work your way in, and like an onion, every level will most likely make you cry, and the closer you get to the core or root of the onion, the more potent the onion becomes.

So, I am working, thinking and wondering what the issues are around the trail and not being able to admit how hard it was. I thought “maybe it’s because I feel like a failure if I admit I struggled?” but that did not seem to fit. 

So for the next week I spent a lot of time on my own, went for solitary walks, had a lot of quiet time, sat in the garden, read, and purposely took it easy. I mean that I was not busy with other activities, socializing etc. Working through trauma is anything but ‘taking it easy” as it takes so much energy and can be exhausting. In time, as I was being mindful of what I was doing, and spending quiet time on my own, I begun to hear this very quiet, light whisper. It would not last for long, was not loud, but it was there. 

When I talk about this whisper, I mean my intuition, my inner knowledgeable voice. And this is what it told me. “You can’t admit that the trail was hard, because it’s a defence. A defence to help you avoid the realities of the times in your past when it was not safe to admit when something was hard.”

 Here is another of the layer of the onion.

So, I go back to therapy and we explore this onion, this protective layer and what it is protecting. As we gentle and slowly peel it away, the realization comes to me. Growing up, I was always put down if I ever voiced a concern about anything. I would be told. “What makes you think you’re so special”  “Who the fuck do you think you are”? And the all-round favorite...” If you’re going to cry I will give you something to cry about” etc.

I’m thinking, “I already know this, have talked about this before, this is not new”. I am left wondering what this is all about. For the next week or two, I once again have solitary quiet time, sit and listen, and once again, the whisper speaks to me. 

I need to do the work around my mother, and her omission in my childhood. If you google omission you will find the following. 

a failure to do something, especially something that one has a moral or legal obligation to do.
Synonyms: negligence, neglect, neglectfulness, dereliction, forgetfulness, oversight, default, lapse, failure.

I have worked on tons of stuff around violence/abuse of pretty much every kind and how it affected my life.  But now I need to work on the quieter acts of omission on mom’s part. This is hard, but it needs to be done.

 This is also hard for society to deal with. I have had many people say to me, ‘well, your mom was in an abusive relationship, and probably thought her life was in danger” etc., Yes, this is true, and I understand that this is them trying to digest and figure this out. I did the exact same thing for years, telling myself “she did the best she could with what she had at the time.” etc. 

But, the reality is, she didn’t and I have to deal with that.

 I have to deal with the fact that she chose not to leave, even when she had opportunities, I have to deal with the fact that her omission and lack of parental instinct was so damaged that she was very rarely there for us kids. I understand the fear she must have had about what would happen if she did leave dad, I understand she had very little control over him and what he did to us, but I am now trying to understand how, she was never there with a hug, or time,or help, or connection of any kind. I am just in the process of working on this, so it’s hard for me to explain.

I also want to make clear this is NOT about blaming mom. This work is about holding up to the light, the reality, look at, and acknowledge what was not there, never was, and the little kid that kept hoping it would be there, because to face reality of it not being there would have been too much.  This is about compassion, giving mom compassion while making her accountable for her lack of action on so, so, so many levels. 

This is about understanding on a much deeper level on my part, and in the process grieving the fact that by the time I was  3 years old, I no longer cried or looked for help when hurt or upset. I had learned, if I cried or needed help, it would not arrive. My little brain had learned that I could not face the reality of it all, and would dissociate, or tell myself that things could be worse. Just like in Cape Scott, “at least it was not the North Coast Trail” I could not admit that the trail in Cape Scott was hard because if I did it would trigger me back to that time, and that realization. 

I have a lot of work ahead of me. Not everyone does this stage of their work, and that’s fine, I respect that, but I need to do this work. I am going to need a lot of quiet, solitary time and be very careful to not get “to busy” which is  a great way to avoid those pesky things called emotions. It’s amazing how those old ways of coping still show up. 

Yes, this is very hard, and painful work, but each time I work through something I get a piece of me back, and it frees up energy for me to do other things.

Last month, I was at The Child and Youth mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative in Vancouver. I was 1 of 12 parents and youth speaking at the opening plenary, to over 600 service providers, about connection. It was amazing, I rocked it, as did everyone on that stage, and since I have come back, been doing my work, my advocacy voice has become so much stronger and sure!  

Because I listened to the whisper, I am stronger. 

Those are my thoughts for today, I hope you find a place and time where you can hear your whisper. It, like you, is sacred, it is worth hearing. 

Cheers and be well