Im Going Outward Bound Once Again- Well, Sort of

Im Going Outward Bound Once Again- Well, Sort of

Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Gift Of Fog

Fog is amazing!!!! 

I find the fog fascinating, how it silently and gentle moves into place, covering everything with a misty blanket. It can refract the sunlight, swallow headlights, muffle and distort sound.  You can’t hold it, this light and fluffy water cotton candy, but it swallows anything in its path.

Fog  makes the invisible, visible! The fogs condensation clings to the threads of spider webs, creating hanging droplets of glass balls. With the fog comes cooler temperatures and one can see their breath, and while on a walk the other day I saw “duck prints” where a duck had walked across the dew covered grass. If the fog was not here, I would not have seen any of these.

For the last ten days my town has been covered in a very thick fog bank. Both the airport and harbor have been socked in causing havoc for people trying to get somewhere. Traffic  on the roads has been moving slower and if you have high beams on at night you can become disoriented. 

Sometimes the best thing to do when the fog arrives is to sit still and enjoy it and try not to get somewhere else!

I have also been visited by my own personal fog bank and could not see where I was going and this was causing me much anxiety. I was waking in the night,- when I did sleep- was cold and could not warm up, trembling, feeling discombobulated, mixing up days and all round feeling crappy. I knew the signs of my complex P.T.S.D. but could not figure out why it would be acting up. Life was good, I am safe, I completed my Outward Bound course, people were reading my blog- which still surprises me- and I was feeling pretty proud of these and other accomplishments. My mental health is the best it has ever been, so what was going on?  I was trying to figure this out, and like driving in the fog with your high beams on, I was disoriented and could not see where I was going.

I had therapy this week and my therapist encouraged me to sit " with my fog"and listen to the insides and see and feel what was going on, then it came to me. I was feeling proud, and this caused much anxiety.

You may say” Why should feeling proud of oneself cause anxiety?”

As those of you who read my blog living with D.I.D. is complex. 

When a child accomplishes something they feel proud of themselves. They are excited and want to tell people about what they have done, be it catch a ball, learn to read, ride a bike, etc. In a healthy family the child is allowed to tell the parents and others in their life, and accomplishments are shared by all and celebrated. This was not my family.

When I accomplished anything and felt proud, I would tell them, and for the most part I was shut down. Meaning I was told to quit bragging, or the famous “who do you think you are that anyone would want to know” etc. I learned at a very early age to keep my accomplishments to myself and would only tell a very select few, if any at all. 

Fast forward all these years later. This week in my therapist’s office, with her encouragement and support,  I sat in “my fog” and listened and what I heard surprised me. 

I learned that feeling proud of my accomplishments brought feelings of anxiety and shame.

I told you it was complex!!!!

I learned that when one feels proud, they also feel excited about that accomplishment and they are able to stay in the proud and excited mode. I can’t.

What happens to me is that when I feel proud, I feel excited about my accomplishments and then, because of my history, I go into anxiety and shame as the old baggage shows up. When I started to feel this anxiety and shame it brought back the old coping mechanism.  This showed up as being on hyper alert, looking for safety, being on guard for any danger, interrupted sleep etc., thus my symptoms of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is a knee jerk reaction. But until I notice and address it, it will always be a knee jerk reaction and one of my default systems. Meaning that it will by-pass all the stuff I know, and go to that old pathway known as a “cognitive error.” 

So, I guess my next assignment- if I choose to take it- is to learn to be comfortable with feeling proud  and the excitement that comes along with it, and not go into that default zone of anxiety and shame.

Being in this fog has been a gift. By slowly exploring my inner fog, the invisible became visible.

Like in the real fog, it’s not always a good idea to start traveling around looking for something. The next time a personal fog bank shows up- and believe me it will- I will try to remember this past week, remember I am safe and strong, that my  boat  is securely moored  to the dock and to sit in the fog and listen. I’m sure I will once again be surprised at what it tells me. 

Those are my thoughts for today

I wish you all well and safety as your travel through your own fog

Cheers and be well


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

I’m Doing Research…..

Yesterday was a lovely fall day, a crisp cool morning and a clear warm day. It was a beautiful day for a walk, so I took two. The first walk was one and a half hours long by myself, and the second one was a shorter one in the afternoon with a friend. They were both lovely.

After the afternoon walk we stopped at our local coffee shop, ordered our coffees and sat outside chatting. It was great to spend time with her and catch up.

I told her that I have been waking up in the middle of the night wondering what I was going to do with my life. 

As we all know, things are always worse in the middle of the night. There are no distractions and you have ample time to “Go to Rome” as one of my past therapist would say. Meaning, that your thoughts take off in a panic and go on a trip all their own,  ending  up who knows where..usually in  a worse case scenarios with  lots of assumptions..usually wrong ones at that!!!!

I know this, but I am still waking in the night with that question going on in my head. I am trying to find out where this is coming from and what’s really behind this question.

As with each time I go through this, and I do have to remember “I have been here before,” I get frustrated with my limits because of this illness. I cannot do as much as other people do, and they seem to do it so effortlessly.  I know there is a reason I am like this, but that does not take away the frustration of the situation.

I get frustrated with being able to do something one day, and not being able to do it the next. As I have mentioned before, this tends to screw up for planning ahead. I can hope to do something, but that does not mean I will be able to carry it out.

 I know I do stuff with my life. I guess it just does not look like the “normal things” people do with their life, which really means have a career and be successful at what they do. But I guess success looks different to each individual.

I don’t always feel like this, but I guess this is my “flavor of the week.” 

As I am talking to my friend, the topic turns to my writing. 

I enjoy writing, I feel better when I write, and I think I am not too bad at it. I remember as a 7 year old, writing for a class assignment – (Grade 3)-and feeling the muse, even though I did not know what it was at the time. The story seemed to pour out of me and it seemed to come with no effort.  The teacher was impressed and read it to the whole class, my mother’s friend wanted to publish it. But as with anything I did as a kid, it got squashed and was never encouraged.  That part of me that wanted to write never wrote again and hid away inside, until these last  few years. 

As I’m talking of this I realize that the “what am I going to do with my life?” really means, what am I going to do with my writing? Where am I going to go with it? What am I going to write? And what makes a successful writer? I guess the last question is the one I have been hung up on.

I know some successful writers. Now these writers have been published and their books are doing well. Some write whenever they get the chance, and some have a schedule they stick to ever day to write. I don’t, and I can’t, I have tried and it just does not work for me. 

So, I guess I have to find out what works for me. And, with me I know this is a work in progress. 

Then as I’m talking it hits me.

I found a piece of myself on my Outward Bound trip; I had many great discoveries and came back a much more whole person. Taking this course has changed me, it has been life altering and it has been a gift. Then I realize it’s kind of like when I come out of the hospital.

When I come out of the hospital I have recovered a lost part of myself and it takes time to “get back on track”, and this is no different.

And, like every time I recover a lost piece of myself, I am elated, and I want to get on with my life. And like every time, I need to process what has happened and its re wiring the brain, this also takes time and energy.

And, like every time, I learn that I am not as patient with myself as I would like to be.

I am once again finding out who I really am, and until that is done I cannot focus on my writing like I would like to.

I tell this to my friend and she says “You are doing research. You are learning who you are, that’s research. You are thinking about your writing and what to write, that is research. It may not look like what we think research is, but you are doing it”.

I liked that and told her I am going to borrow it.

So, like any good writer, I guess I am doing research. This sounds much nicer then “Why the hell aren’t your writing more?” And it does help me  take the pressure off of myself.

 I ask myself and my friend…Am I going to write a book, what am I going to write, who is going to read my writing, will there be lots of readers, or will I be a quiet writer and have   just be a few people who read what I write? 

Where I am going to go with my writing?

Then I realized I am not going to go anywhere with my writing, it is going to take me and go where it is supposed to go! 

Just like the time when I was in therapy shortly after I was correctly diagnosed. I was wondering where I was going to go from there. I was trying to plan my future. What do I have to do, maybe I have to go back to school, find another job, what am I going to do with my life?  Then my guardian angel lovingly hit me across the side of my head with a very padded 2x4 and told me to “stop reaching for the brass ring. Stop trying to find the glove to fit you, it will be there when the time is right, but for now you need to do your work and be formed for that glove so you are ready when the time comes.
So I sat back, relaxed and opened myself and my trust to the universe and knew that I would do what I am meant to do, and it would be all right.

I guess I have to do the same thing with my writing. I have to sit back, be open to the universe,do the research, and believe it will work out as it is supposed to. 

I received many wonderful, amazing and heartfelt gifts on my Outward Bound Course; I have grown and changed for the better.  I need to do the research and process all that happened to me, all that I gained and all of me that came back.

It will take time and I need to be gentle and patient with myself. And I do know that my writing, like my life, will be much richer for it. For that I am grateful. 

I wish you all well in your discoveries and research.

Those are my thoughts for today
Cheers and be well

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

I Feel A Change Coming…….

 I look out my window and  see the raindrops gathering on the bows of Western  Redcedar tree. The raindrops  slowly pool together until they hit the critical point where they become heavy enough and run down its fan like sprays that come off its branches. They seem to hang on momentarily, then drop off, the branch bounces back up, ready for a replay.  I get up to put a sweater on.

Yes, there is a change coming.

 Fall is here. Even if it’s only been here a few days, you can feel the change. 

The rain has become heavier, the air cooler, leaves changing colour and apples are dropping off the trees. Light snow has dusted the surrounding mountains and the smell of decaying leaves and wood smoke great me as I go for a walk. 

When the  clear blue skies and sun are out, there is crispness in the air. I can see my breath and when I come home from my daily-or almost daily- walk, my cheeks are cool and have a red tinge to them.

Un like most other areas of Canada where there is a definite change of seasons, here on Vancouver Island the seasons slowly merge from one to another, and this fall is no different. I love this time of year.

Some people do not like it . Some see it as a time of death and sadness, as the nights close in, flowers die, trees become dormant etc, but I don’t. I see warmth in the colours, all be it they are not as spectacular as most other areas of Canada.  But here, this time of year, the maple leaves change from green, to an amazing array of yellow and gold before they fall off. The light this time of year is warmer and gives off amazingly long shadows.  The coats on the local deer have changed from  light brown to a spectacular rich, dark reddish brown that looks as if it’s made out of mahogany, it truly is beautiful. And in the next month the first of the Trumpeter swans will show up to winter over and fatten up, to get ready for their spring migration back up north. 

For me, there is also internal change coming.

When I first got back off of my Outward Bound Course, life became unexpectedly busy. It has just been in the last week that things have started to settle down and I have had the opportunity to start to process the amazing adventure that I had. 

I can say the person who went on that course and the person who came back are not the same. I mean I am the same but different, and it has been a bit of a challenge. This is in a good way.

I have noticed that some of my old life does not feel right, nothing drastic, just little things.  Things like where do I really want to put my limited energy? Do I see things the same way? Priorities have changed and I am seeing things with new eyes.  

I also recovered a lost, or not really lost, but very distant persona, or aspect of myself. I knew it was always there, but it was like a planet floating on the outer orbit. It would pass close by every once in a while, but never close enough for me to reel her in. Well, I did just that on this course.

It was, and is amazing, and like any new addition to the family, or relative coming to live with you, there is a period of adjustment.

I guess I am in the adjustment period.

I am also calmer, more at peace with myself and my life. I notice I worry less about when my disability pension will be put in the bank and what am I going to do in the future.  I am living more in the moment. I have much more gratitude for my life and for those who are in it. I value and respect myself more than ever thought I would.

There have been a few brief moments where the old “worry” would come back, but I noticed and was able to ground myself and stay in the present. I also know, this will take time as I am making new pathways in my brain, and as I have said before, this can be tiring work, but it is so worth it. 

Yes, I feel a change coming. Like the change of seasons here, it will not be dramatic, it will be subtle, it will happen bit by bit, day by day, and when it does, I know it will be right for me. I am open to it and I look forward to the new and improved me. 

I will keep you all posted on this new and exciting chapter of my life. 

Those are my thoughts for today
PS- Here is a Thank you Letter I sent to Outward bound, to send to the sponsors of the Women of Courage program

An open letter to all Outward Bound Women of Courage sponsors…

My name is Suzy Venuta and I have just finished the Women of Courage Alberta program ten days ago. At the end of each course we are asked to write a thank you letter to our sponsors, to thank them for supporting this amazing program. We did that on the morning of the 14th, before we were picked up to depart.  It had been an intense week, I was tired and I felt I did not get to fully express my thanks and what the program has done for me, thus this letter.

The Women of Courage is a program for women who have had violence at some point in their life. Violence, especially if experienced in childhood, can change a person and distort the way they see the world, themselves, and their self-worth. It can isolate and cripple.

I have spent the last ten days thinking about and processing the amazing week I had in the Rookies, I mean, what better classroom to learn. I have been telling people about my adventure, for that’s what it was, but I find it hard to put into words, but I will try.  

Women of Courage programs are not about a group of ladies sitting around a cabin having appy’s  and getting  a pedicure! Mind you at points during the course I wished it was!

On a Saturday afternoon a group of women gathered at a hotel in Canmore, Alberta. This group  were all strangers to each other and the only commonality was having violence at some point in our life. A few made small talk, many were quiet. It was with some trepidation that I, and I’m sure the rest, waited for the organizers to show up. We were all strangers, but by the end of the week we were strong, supportive, valued members of this very diverse group. We became an amazing community!

Before my course I wrote the following post on my blog

“…  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. ….”

Well, I can tell you I found more than that.

 This course is one of the toughest things I have ever done, physically, mentally and emotionally.  Many times I wondered “what the Hell am I doing here and why did I sign up for this?” There were times I was short of breath, my lungs and legs burned and I could only focus on one step at a time. And there were no shortage of moments when I thought I could not make it, where the weight of the pack and task just seemed too much for me.

There were also great moments of growth, deep down belly laughs, connections, heartfelt moments and many tears of gratitude. There were Epiphany’s, amazing support and joy. There were times of surprise and great discoveries and I learned that I can do more than I had believed. I grew stronger every day and the world as well as my pack became lighter. 

It will take a book to write all that I have gained from this program but I wanted to thank all the sponsors and fundraisers for providing support to this wonderful program. I am on a disability pension and funds are tight, but your support allowed me to apply and be granted a bursary to participate. That is a gift that I will be forever grateful.

I also wrote on my blog

“… while on this course 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…..”

You do not know me and likely will never meet me, but you gift has made an unimaginable positive impact on my life. I will hold it close to my heart always. 

With this wonderful group and our supportive instructors I learned it was safe to trust, to ask for help, and to be who I really am. I discovered my strength, my laugh, my resiliency and my authenticity. But most importantly I found my essence; this is something that had been locked away for over 50 years. The next day one of the group members mentioned to me “You are just glowing.”  

I have grown from this course and will continue that growth for many years to come.

I am slowly getting back into my life and I will continue to advocate and write about mental health issues, but I will do it with more confidence and conviction. I will have much richer relationships with myself, my family and friends. I will dare to do more than I ever thought possible. I will laugh deeper, cry freely, and I will be more at peace with myself and my life.

I send you my heartfelt thanks and deep gratitude for this amazing life changing opportunity.

Thank you
Suzy Venuta