Im Going Outward Bound Once Again- Well, Sort of

Im Going Outward Bound Once Again- Well, Sort of

Friday, 27 September 2013

I MADE IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, I can’t believe it but I really did make it, it was a struggle, it was a journey, it was a gift!

For those of you who don't know, I am talking about my Outward Bound Canada, Women of Courage course that took place earlier this month.

It was the journey of a life time.

This course was a week long backpacking/hiking trip in the Canadian Rookies, and my oh my, what better classroom to learn in.

There were seven other women on this course with me, the only commonality we had was that we had experienced violence at some point in our lives. There were two wonderful female instructors and they were good.

Each women on this course was not only challenging the Rookies and the climb and all the physical stuff that goes along with that, they, like me, were also on their own personal healing and inner journey. And what a journey it was. The two instructors were amazing. They were not just our "guides", to keep us safe and get us from point A to point B, they were also our teachers, therapists, counselors, support, cheering section and loving fan club. They were amazing.

I am still processing the week I spent with these wonderful women in the Rookies, so many highlights, so many challenges, so much growth.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I had sent Outward Bound a safety plan, to help keep me present as one of my main goals was to not dissociate on this course.

We had all meet at a hotel in Canmore Alberta and were met by the organizers and instructors. We were then taken to a group camp ground around Kananaskis where we did the “ duffle shuffle”, which is where you separate the stuff you are going to take, from the stuff you are not, and then go through a list to see if you have everything you need. Some of the women also separated all the food into days, and put them in separate carry bags, one bag had the meals for that particular day.

We were also given sleeping bags, tents and sleep mats, matched up with a tent mate and went and set up tents and sleeping bags and mats for the night.

 It was a very intense few hours of learning, as we learned how to put together and operate the stoves, make dinner, clean up, how to treat the water, how to pack our pack, how to dress to sleep and to hike the next day, and an assorted million other things. Things like…. If you wake in the middle of the night and have to go pee, do it, because having a full bladder takes heat away from your body, as your body will try to keep your pee warm…I think we finished around 10:00 pm or so and I was more than exhausted, I was completely bagged.

Oh yes, were had to have a bathroom buddy whenever we went to the outhouse, and we were  each issued our own container of bear spray that we were to have on us at all times, because we were , indeed in bear country, black bear and grizzly!!!

I was happy to hit the sack and get some rest. It was cold and dark so I changed in the tent. Now these tents are not big, they are two person tents, maybe 4 feet wide and 6 feet long, with 2 of us in there, there is not much room, and no privacy. As I’m striping off and changing into my merino wool long johns I mentioned to my tent mate..”nothing like a little intimacy to get two people to know each other”

As tired as I was I could not sleep, and yes..I did have to go pee in the middle of the night. I waited and waited and then I heard my tent mate was awake, so off we go. I step out of the tent and look up and I am astonished. I could not get over how many stars there were, and I could see the entire Milky Way, not bit and pieces of it, but the whole thing, and it seemed like it was so close I could touch it…it was amazing….

Morning comes and I get up and get changed, take the tents down and pack our packs. We then have breakfast and finished packing. Our ride arrives to take us to the start of the trail and we go to load up the truck….and I can’t pick my pack up…so I sort of drag and pop it across the field to the truck thinking..”how the hell am I going to carry this”…

 We reach the trail head and unload the vehicles. We get ready to start the hike and I have to have someone help me with the pack, which means I had to get someone to pick it up and hold it for me while I put it on. Oh yes, did I mention am the oldest one there! I think if the opportunity came up for me to turn back and go home, part of me would have seriously thought about it.

Did I tell you the scenery was amazing and I kept thinking it looked like something from a post card. Our trail started at the upper Kananaskis Lake, it was beautiful, majestic mountains in the back, it was amazing. The pine trees smelled different than the ones here at home, they had a lighter , sweet smell to them. The air was cooler and there were some gray clouds in the sky.

 Once I get my pack on, it takes me awhile to regain my balance, and we start the hike. We were a couple of hours in and the uphill climb started. I was feeling pretty good about the training I had done to prepare for this course, but it soon became apparent that it was not enough. I was short of breath and could not catch my breath. My feet were unsure on the rocky trail and the load in my pack seemed to get heavier with each step.   One of the instructors asked me how I was doing, I said fine, then she said "how are you really doing"-(as per requested on my safety plan) - and I broke out in tears and said” I am panicking and I can’t breathe.” I am also thinking, oh great Suzy, it’s not even lunch time on the first day and you have lost it.
The instructor let the group- who were ahead of me- know that we needed to stop and she stayed with me, she asked me what was going on and how she could help. I didn’t know what was going on, I knew there were very intense emotions coming up, I knew I needed to acknowledge and honor them, and I knew I needed to process them. With the support of the instructor and the group, I was able to do that, and then move on, and continue the climb. I needed breath breaks and the whole group was very supportive of me and stopped whenever I requested a breath break.

A while later, the group pulled off to the side of the trail, once we reached some level ground- which to me seemed to take forever- and the instructors brought out a piece of white material, this was to become our flag. They asked everyone in the group to commit to the group that we would respect each other, be safe, and I can’t remember what else, but you get the idea. They then asked us what we could bring to the group and then write it down on the flag, and then trace our hands with the marker. I told the group I could bring humor and authenticity. Before the group started up again one of the ladies, who is Cree I believe, performed a smudge, when she did this my tears started flowing again. I could not believe the impact this had on me and the same thing happened each time she did this. Obviously, it was touching something deep down inside me.

 It was amazing. And this was only in the 1st part of the 1st day.

Back on the trail, a few hours later I had this huge epiphany and came to understand what the tears and panic while on the climb were about. It is because I was allowed to safely process these emotions with the support of the staff and group that I was able to reach this epiphany, and that was the first of many gifts this group gave me.

We stopped and had lunch in an amazing spot that over looked the lake, it was another amazing scene.I told the instructor that I felt bad for struggling and for having to make the group wait for me, but she reassured me it was fine and not to worry about it. We then carried on, crossed a few creeks, some still and silent, others raging and loud, walked up hill and down, through rock paths and moss covered trails, followed along a river and finally reached our  camp for the first night and I was none to glad to get there, I was starting to wonder if it really existed. The camp site is called Forks, and I was sure glad to get there and drop my pack, as it was so heavy I could not let it down slowly. I ached, I was sore and I am sure by this point I was starting to stink. Some folks in the group got firewood, some got and treated the water, some set up tents and some made dinner…each of us had chores to do each day and we discussed who was going to do what the night before.

After dinner and when things were tidied up, we all sat in a circle- we had many circles- around the fire and I thanked the group and instructors for the support they had given me, throughout the day and when I had my “melt down”..I let them know that I am on an inner journey and that I have no idea why the emotions came up, but I also know, that I don’t need to know, my body is remembering something, I need to acknowledge and accept them and let them process and this is how it happens. I let them know that I am safe, I am not in crisis and I did not want any of them to think they may have said or did something wrong, it’s my process and this is what it looks like. The group seemed to be very understandable and supportive. I was impressed with them all.

We all sat around the fire until it was time to get into our tents, struggle with our sleeping bag liners, and sleeping bags and get some sleep. I was exhausted and sore and as I put my head on my pillow-which was my rolled up fleece sweater-Im thinking ..” today was hard, but I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be even harder”….and I was right….

To be continued..

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Reality Check #2…..

Just over three weeks ago I received the 2nd of my two iron infusions. I felt the difference after the first one and even better after the 2nd one.  I could not believe how much better I felt and how much I could do. After being so tired for so long it is great to have my energy back. Not only do I have more energy, I can concentrate and focus, hold and be involved in a conversation, read and sleep well. I can once more go out for coffee with friends and re connect with my social circle. This connection with my social circle, who are also part of my wonderful support system, is very important to me.  I could not believe how good it felt to be able to function.

Then one day reality hit, again!

The reality is that I wanted to do more, but I could not. And, this was once again, a reminder of my illness and why I am on disability.

With regards to my mental health I am the healthiest I have been. I think back to the times I did not know if I was going to make it to the next hour, let alone the next day. I think back to the time before I was correctly diagnosed and thought I was truly losing my mind. I know I have overcome insurmountable odds and am grateful to everyone who has helped me get to where I am now. But I still get frustrated that I have limits, and cannot do as much as others seem to do. I also get frustrated that even though things are much better, my life is still pretty complex.

I have been physically preparing for my upcoming Outward Bound trip for the past two months, what people have not been seeing is my inside preparation. That has been going on for years.

When you have D.I.D. nothing is simple!!!!

This course is going to push me beyond my perceived limits, emotionally, physically and mentally. While this is not a survival course it still will be challenging.  The instructors are very knowledgeable, accepting and supportive, and they will make sure I am safe at all times. I know this, the adult part knows this, but some of my other inside folks are not too sure.  
I will once again try to explain a very complex concept.

There may be some of you out there who may be very sure of who you are, and are very successful at what you do, know your own mind etc. But when you go back to your childhood home for Christmas or other family gatherings, you turn into that  kid and the family dynamics kick in as soon as you walk in the door. You may feel like you are in two worlds, one world is the present, the confident, strong, level headed person you are at work, life  and your home, the other world you are thrown back into the world of your childhood and old roles, hurts and triggers. Your emotions flip flop from the confident adult, you are, to that kid in your family dynamics. Its takes energy to keep things under control, try to deal with the brother who always puts you down, mother who picks at you etc. 

Welcome to my world!  I, and others with D.I.D.  have more than two aspects/persona's that we have to deal with on a daily basis. 

I had coffee with a friend the other day and told her that packing and getting ready for this course is like preparing and organizing a daycare, so many needs, need to be met.

Although I have been doing very well, I have parts of me that may get triggered if we get wet and cold. I have sent Outward Bound a safety plan, and they have sent a copy to the program director and the two instructors.

 During the intake interview for this course, the director told me that last year they had a person on the course who was D.I.D. and she switched every few minutes, but they knew ahead of time and a safety plan and supports were put in place to allow this individual to be successful with their program.

My safety plan also gives directions on how they can support me throughout the program and what to do to help me if there is an emergency like a car accident etc.

This week I have been thinking about what to bring for my talisman, - kind of like good luck charms or sacred objects that hold some significance for me. It’s been a bit of a challenge as “everyone” wants their say, and to bring something, but we are going to be carrying a 60 lb pack in the Rookies, it’s not like I have a lot of room. It has taken some time but I think I have come up with a few small things that will please and support everyone. 
I won’t even get into the issues I had to deal with as some parts were upset because they felt left out when I was buying new gear for the course…like I said, it’s very complex and nothing is simple!

Yes, reality bites at times. But, I know this is my reality like it or not. I can fight against it and be angry and pissed off all the time or I can learn to accept it, work with it and do the best that I can do. I guess you know the one I have chosen.

I also know it could be a lot worse!

Like I have said before, this has not been an easy journey, but it is worth it. I could not have imagined that I would be getting ready to go backpacking for a week in the great Canadian Rookies.

 I am taking this course to learn more about myself, who I really am and what I can really do. I am taking this course to meet challenges and put some old ghosts and “cognitive errors” to rest. I am taking this course to celebrate how far I have come and dig down a little deeper to find that authenticity that is me. 

And while I am doing all of that, I will also be honoring everyone past and present, alive or dead who have helped me to get where I am today. They may have played a big part, or just a very small role. They may have been in my life for years, or it may have been just one chance meeting, or not know me at all.

I will honor them all.

Yes, my life is challenging and complex and that is my reality. 

I also know,contrary to what I was taught, life is also full of wonderful experiences, the world can be safe,  I can trust people and  I am very much loved. I know that while I am on the 24 hour solo component of the course, I may be on my own, but I will not be alone as many people will be holding me close to their hearts and  thinking about me.

That’s the reality I choose to focus on!!!!!!

I am looking forward to this course, and yes I have some trepidation, but that’s normal. I know I will be safe and supported and it will be an experience of a life time.  It will be a voyage of discovery and I will come back with many treasures and wonderful tales to tell.

These are my thoughts and I look forward to telling you about this amazing trip.

I wish you all well in your journeys and may you find many wonderful treasures.

Until next time
Cheers and be well