Im Going Outward Bound Once Again- Well, Sort of

Im Going Outward Bound Once Again- Well, Sort of

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Planting Seeds....

A few weeks ago, when it was a nice, warm sunny spring day, I planted some sunflower seeds in my garden. I have been planting these flowers in the garden for about 6 years now. The 1st year I planted them as a bit of a border/fence between the back of my garden and the road, to give me a bit of privacy when I am out in my back yard. It was a lovely crop of sunflowers and I would watch as the bees visited and had trouble flying away because their pollen sacks on their legs were so full. 

Across the road is a complex for seniors. These folks told me numerous times that they very much enjoyed the sunflowers. One day my husband was outside and a women walking by and said..” thank-you for the sunflowers, I pass them every day on my walk and they always make me smile.” The next spring I was working in my garden and the folks in the senior’s complex were coming up and asking me if I was going to plant sunflowers again this year. The tradition had started.

I worked and prepared my garden a week before planting the seeds. I rototilled the dirt, leveled it and pulled out the weeds. I put zinc stripping around the edge to help keep the slugs away, and on a warm sunny day I planted the seeds. As I was taking the seeds out of the package it still amazed me that these dried shriveled things were actually going to become a plant. As I was putting them in the ground I kept thinking to myself, “these are never going to come up, there’s nothing to them.” But my rational brain kicked in and reminded me I say this every year. It still amazes me when they come up and I am still somewhat surprised.

After planting I watered them and wondered how they would do. It has rained pretty much every day since, so I have not had to water them.  I go and check them every day to see how they are doing and low and behold they are coming up. I am still amazed, that some dried thing I put in the ground and watered is poking their little green sprouts through the dirt that is now their home.

As I was looking at them today I was thinking about the kids I will be talking to tomorrow at one of the High schools here.

I will be talking to the grade 11/12 psychology class about living with Dissociative Identity Disorder, what it really is, and how it affects me and my family.  I will help de-stigmatize this condition and create dialogue around this and other mental health issues. I will encourage them to ask questions, and they always ask great ones.

 I enjoy these presentations and the class seems to also. Last semester, after a visit from a soldier who talked about P.T.S.D., a therapist talking about self-harm, and my presentation, 3 students in that class went and sought help. I hope by telling them that having a mental illness is not a character flaw, that there is no weakness in seeking help, and that 1 in 4 youths will have a mental health issue, they see that they are not alone. I will also tell them, as I told the last group, that there is a gem inside them and when the time is right the light will shine and they will grow.

I was thinking of this when I looked at those little seed heads poking through the ground. I then thought of all the kids I had worked with over the years as an early childhood educator. I worked with many, many challenging children, children from dysfunctional, chaotic and sometimes abusive and neglectful homes. I could not change their home life, but for the time they were in my care I could keep them safe, let them know they are worthy and that I believed in them. I hope they have been able to carry that with them.

I then started thinking of the people in my childhood who were safe and let me know they thought I was worthy. These people could not change my home situation, but they did make a difference in my life, if even for a small amount of time. And, growing up I held onto that with a fierce tenacity, like a terrier with a bone and I would let no one take that away with me.

I then thought how working to prepare the garden for the sunflower seeds was much like my therapy. 

When I got into therapy, it was much like a rototiller going through my life and turning it over and bringing things up to the surface to see the light of day, often for the first time.  As issues came up-(weeds)- I would work through them and get to their roots, some were deeper than others  and pulled them out. In time light was hitting the original surface and the real me (seeds) could start to sprout. With support, and self-care I have been able to grow to who I am now.

I know I can’t change the home life of the students I talk to. I do hope that I shed light on what D.I.D. really is, that having a mental illness is not a character flaw, and it is never a weakness to seek help for anything.  I hope I help create an environment in which they will become more comfortable talking about mental health issues.  I hope I give them hope and that I plant some seeds in them, so when the time and circumstances are right they will sprout and grow into a beautiful wondrous thing. 

Those are my thoughts for today
Happy planting

Cheers and be well


Monday, 13 May 2013

It's All In The perspective....

A couple of weeks ago I went and gave a presentation to a girls youth group at my old high school. The members of this group have challenges with drugs/alcohol and are trying to cut down or abstain from it all together.  Along with that they have the challenges of being a teenager and all the issues and conflicts that go along with it, and I imagine they have issues and challenges that I am not even aware of. 

I had graduated from that school 35 years ago and it was a little surreal being there again. Who would have known that 35 years later, I would be talking to kids the age I was, and letting them know there can be a future. 

As I drove up the long driveway to the parking lot I noticed that the bushes on the left hand side were much larger now. I use to sit behind them when I skipped class.

 As I waited in the office for one of the class facilitators I was amazed at how much smaller the office was. Sure it was arranged differently but I swear when I was a student  it was much bigger than that. As I sat and waited I even studied the construction of the walls to see if it had been changed, it had not. I looked out into the hall where the pay phone use to be and of course it’s no longer there.

One of the group facilitators met me and we walked to the room where I was meeting everyone. As I walked down the halls I noticed they looked and felt smaller and when we walked past the cafeteria I swear it was half the size. The library was in a different section of the school, the lockers looked smaller, and the students looked so much younger.

I met the group and the other facilitator, they were all very welcoming. The young women were all bright, articulate, smart and of course beautiful. They were very open and asked wonderful questions. 

I explained to the group about my D.I.D., that it was a very creative defense mechanism and that in some way it was my way of “numbing” from the world and my reality. I talked about starting to drink at the age of 12 to help numb and deal with what was then my life. 

I told them the same thing that some instructors at the hospital psychiatric adult day therapy program told me when I was talking their program. That I need not be ashamed of the way I had been coping with my life. It may not have been the most effective or healthy way but it was the only tools I had to deal with life, and most importantly it kept me alive.  What they could do was give me a new tool box and new coping tools that were more effective, healthier and could lead to a brighter future. 

I also told them that if they had friends or family members with substance abuse issues, that it was not their fault. They were also not responsible for the actions of these very same people. I gave them examples of how as a kid I believed if I did or said the right thing then my father would not drink and there would be no violence, lack of food or heating. For years I carried around the guilt that it was my responsibility. I now know different.  

I told them that having a mental health issue is not a character flaw, and is not indicative to who you are as a person. 

I talked about how my D.I.D. affects my family, friends and especially my sons childhood years and how any mental health issue affects the whole family.

There was much more I talked about and the great questions they had. I wanted them to know that there is hope, there is help, and there is a tomorrow, no matter how dark the present moment may feel.

I told them that each of us is born with a sparkling, beautiful gem inside us. If we are fortunate to be raised in an environment where that gem is treasured and cherished, or even just acknowledged, we will shine at a very young age and grow and be part of the world and see all the possibilities before us.

Sometimes because of life situations we do not see that gem, or even know it is there. But no matter what happens it is there. People may dump their issues, shame and guilt upon us and we will carry it around, and that gem may be covered up, but it is still there. It’s always been there, and it will always be there. Some of us may take longer to find it- it took me 45 years-but it is there. And when the time is right, it will break through and its energy and brilliance will shine for all to see.

 I then gave each of them a small glass crystal to represent the gem in each of them, to remind them that it is there and when the time is right it will show. 

After the presentation it was the lunch break. A friend- who is a teacher at that school- met me and took me to lunch in the staff cafeteria. I remember this room being much larger then it was. My friend showed me her classroom and we went and found my grad class photo on the wall by the office. It was good to see her again and catch up and I enjoyed our time together.

It was an amazing couple of hours and I spent the next week or so processing my time there, past and present. Who would have known what a gift it was for me to be there again?

When I was attending that school, I was a terrified 17 year old who did not know if I was going to make it through the next day, let alone even think about a future or my school work, I was just trying to survive. Everything was so big, the class rooms, the office, my terror and fear , life was just overwhelming.

Now that I am older, much older you might say, the office, class rooms and the whole school is smaller. But in reality, the school has not changed, I have. I now, as an adult, am able to see the school for what it really is. As this came to mind, I thought about my therapy and the issues I have worked on. 

When I first started therapy I was terrified to look at my issues, but with help and guidance, and a hell of a lot of hard work, I have been able to look at and work through them. And, now, I am able to see them for what they are, and they hold much less power over me. Some issues are no longer bothering me, and some may pop up now and then, but I have support and can deal with them. 

My past will always be my past, that will not change. What has changed is the way I deal with my past, and the fact that I now see it as part of my life, not my entire life. It is not who I am any more then my illness is who I am, it is part of me, but not all of me. I can say I see it in a much different perspective then when I was going to that high school. 
I enjoyed talking to the group and I'd  love to do it again. I like to think that the students now realize they are not alone, that there is help available and there is no shame in seeking help. I hope I have been able to give some of them a new perspective on what their life can be like and that it will not always be like it is now. 

I hope I gave them hope, because hope is a very powerful thing.

I will leave you with the following quote, and I wish you all well in finding your gem.

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes."
—Marcel Proust

Those are my thoughts for the day
Cheers and be well