The Beauty of Stillness

The Beauty of Stillness

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, 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 physical urge that “I had to pick that weed now” my leg muscles would actually twitch as the urge to move was so strong.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 couldn't  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. This will make the trip much richer. Also, sure doesn't hurt the present moment :) 

I wish you all well in your journey, and may you all find quiet moments to discover your richness. 

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

Suzy

Monday, 10 April 2017

Recovery is like the arrival of Spring…

Recovery is like the arrival of Spring…

I have come to the conclusion that recovery is like the arrival of spring.  Spring may appear to “suddenly be here” but, if we are watchful, we see that it slowly comes into being.

Spring is growth personified. There is a lot we don’t see, and I have come to understand that my recovery is also like that.

In the past 48 hours, I have noticed the long awaited arrival of better moments. Moments which include improved brain functioning, a sense of wellbeing and a lightness within my soul. People who see me in the next day of two may think that I am suddenly better, but in reality, I have been working long and hard to get to this point.

There have been many, many gut retching therapy appointments, days of complete exhausting where I feel like I am wearing a lead suit while walking through mud. Times I have had too push myself to get up out of bed and out of the house. I have felt anger, frustration and sadness. But I always knew, even in the darkest times, that I was growing and doing what I needed to get better. To those who don’t know me, this may have looked like anything but growth, but those who are close, know differently.  

In the spring, long before we see leaves unfurl on the Honeysuckle vine, the lilac buds start to show, or the crocuses breaking through the earth, there is much going on underground.  Roots and seeds are awakening, stretching and cracking open in the darkness, where there is no light. But lack of light does not stop this growth from happening. Just because we don’t see it, does not mean it is not going on.

I think back to when I fractured my ankle in January of 2005. I needed surgery and now have a plate and 7 pins in my right ankle.  In the days following I required painkillers, lots of rest, and the aid of others. What we didn’t see was the bones healing and knitting themselves back together. In time I was able to get up, learned how to use a walker, then crunches, a walking boot and then after some time it was healed.

Of course the progress of a physical injury or illness is much easier to see then a mental illness. Society is much more accepting and accommodating of a physical then a mental illness, but it’s slowly changing. Like the arrival of spring, lots of growth and change is happening that we don’t see. Mental illness and the importance of mental health is slowly coming into the spot light, and more and more people are creating respectful dialogue around this. Science and technology are giving us a better understanding of what’s going on, and we do know, we are just scratching the surface. We have a long way to go, but it’s a start.

So when you get times where all you see is dark, remember, the seed still breaks open and the roots stretch and awaken in the dark.

I’m pretty sure there will be times, where I will once again struggle, will require the aid of others, need lots of rest and may need medication. That’s ok- just like when I fractured my ankle, healing will be happening in these moments and I am doing what I need to do to take care of myself and get better.

Where ever you are in your journey,, may always hear Spring gentle whispering on your doorstep.
Those are my thoughts for today

Cheers and be well


Suzy

Monday, 23 January 2017

Why I Do What I Do.......

 I sit here with my cup of tea and think of one question I am often asked by people when I tell them I’m a mental health educator/advocate.

“Why do you do what you do?”

My answer is usually something along the line, that living with a mental illness myself, I know how hard it can be, and the public’s stigma and misconceptions around it. I hope to educate and get people talking about it, as it affects 1 in 4 people, and 500,000 Canadians have missed work today because of a mental illness, and those are the ones we know about.


Yes, I know from firsthand experience what it is like to live with a mental illness. The stigma, misconceptions and days of frustration because you can’t seem to function “like everybody else can” I have been down to Hades and back so many times I should get frequent flyer points, and had days where it just took too much energy to get out of bed and get dressed. Days where, doing the very basic things like shower and eat, were too much for me.

I also know, that the one with the illness, is not the only one affected by it.

I was brought up in a family where one, if not both of my parents had an undiagnosed mental illness, and they self-medicated with alcohol. I can tell you that not one of us 9 children got out of that family unscathed.

I look back now and wonder how any of us got out of there alive. I also now realize, they were in a lot of pain. Mental illness was not something you talked about in my family, even as some of my brothers showed obvious signs. We didn't  have “an elephant in the room”, we had a herd of them all under the same roof.

I remember the craziness, chaos, and unpredictability while growing up, and I remember at 4 years old wanting to die.

I remember growing up and as an adult wondered why it seemed I could not remember doing things, having bouts of depression, and anxiety that followed me around. I remember crashing and burning in 2001 and no longer able to work at a job I loved, and was good at, losing our house, and credit, and my world crashing down around me as I could no longer keep the fa├žade together.

I also remember being correctly diagnosed in 2003, and finally understanding what was wrong with me.  With the tenacity of a “terrier with a bone” I worked, with the help of many amazing people, harder than I ever did in my life to get better. And the good news is, I did get better.

I will always have my illness, but I am not my illness.

Yes I am a statistic. I am one of those 1 in 5 Canadians who have a mental illness, I was 1 of those “75% of children and youth with a mental illness who will not receive treatment," and “there but the grace of God”, I am not included in the #1 accidental death of youth, suicide!

Yes, I am a statistic. I am living proof that with the correct diagnose, understanding and support, one can have a very fulfilling life, while having a mental illness.

I am a statistic, but I am more than that, as is anyone with a mental illness. I am a mother, wife, friend, and writer. I have captained my dragon boat team, play Ringette and belong to a singing group. I volunteer for various organizations and I am a very much loved member of my community.

I have talked to my doctors medical and practicum students.  Along with nursing and psychology students, and various groups of youth. I hope to talk to more groups, and various places including colleges and universities. 

I also know, that being correctly diagnosed probably saved my life.

So now you know why I do what I do. You can also make a difference.

Start talking about mental illness, and why mental health is important to everyone. Realize that having a mental illness is not a character flaw, or anything like Hollywood portrays.

You can go to the links below and start the conversation rolling.This week Bell Canada is having its campaign to help end stigma around mental illness. With every phone call, text message sent, and tweet using #BellLetsTalk on January 25th, Bell Canada will donate 5 cents to a mental health intuitive. http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/ . They have some great Canadians as spokespersons, Michael Landsburg, Howie Mandel, Mary Walsh and Clara Hughes.

Each and every one of these people are very successful in their chosen field, and it does my heart good to see they are standing up, sharing their own, very personal stories, and helping to end the stigma on mental illness.

Will I ever meet these people, probably not, but I do have something in common with them. I also speak about my experiences and advocate and educate about mental illness and mental health challenges. No, I will never be on national television, I do not have a media team putting together my campaign, but I, as one person, continue to do what I do, and like the Bell Canada spokespersons, I am making a difference.  

This last December I had the opportunity to once again speak to some youth at one of the local high schools. I spoke to a grade 11/12 psychology class, and as always, was amazed at these youth. I loved speaking to them, opening some great dialogue, answering their amazing questions, and, as always, before we knew it time was up.

The teacher of this program is amazing, she is really interested and connected with her students, and it shows. During the next couple of classes, she asks the students to write a short note to me, about my presentation and what they thought of it. This, too me, is a gift.

No matter how many times I have talked to her students-(I have been doing it for 4 years now) - and the comments that are sent to me, they always surprise me, bring a smile to my face and at times a tear to my eye. These kids are smart, well-articulated, and get it.

This shows me, that one person can make a difference. Here are a few of those comments

“Thank you for speaking to my class. You really opened our eyes about Dissociative Identity Disorder and made us understand that it isn't what Hollywood makes it out to be.”

“The fact that you have been to the lowest of lows and come out such a happy person is very inspiring...”

“ You made me open my eyes more in life and realize that my life is crap right now but will get better one day…you showed people that there’s more out there in life and that they just have to wait for that day to come.”

“You have made me realize there is so much more to life”

“I think people have a lot a misconceptions about mental illness and you did a great job clearing those up”

“Your presentation was truly inspiring because despite what you have been through you know who you are. I think it’s hard to find yourself, regardless of the situation. You helped me understand that even if it is hard, I will find who I am, and who I want to become.”

“..I realized human beings are very tough and can persevere through almost anything…”

“… It helped me understand how to see and treat people with D.I.D. and also other mental health issues.”

“Your story was really meaningful and inspired me. Life can suck but it can be good and never give up, remember better times are coming.”


For some of these youth, this is the very 1st time they have learned, discussed and asked questions about mental illness. And I know, that for some my stories resonate with them because this is the first time in their life they learn that they are not alone.

I am not and never will be a celebrity. I am not and never will be a national spokesman, but I do know I make a difference. I will continue to do what I do, quietly, in my corner of the world. And when I hit times where I wonder if I am making a difference, I will pull out the student’s comments and read them once again.

I am not the only one making a difference. There are many, many individuals and organizations out there doing their part in helping end the stigma on mental illness. A few individuals I know about are

The following organizations are doing a great job and have amazing resources on their sites, be it how to talk to or help someone with a mental illness.
Partners for mental Health http://www.partnersformh.ca/
The Canadian Mental Health Association http://www.cmha.ca/

And here is an amazing resource for parents with children with mental health issues and challenges. This is a B.C. organization, but great resources.

The F.O.R.C.E. Society for Children and Mental Health, http://www.forcesociety.com/

It is amazing to see the energy, passion, and drive that these individuals and organizations have. We All believe that through better education and understanding, we CAN make a difference, and help END THE STIGMA and misunderstandings surrounding mental health issues.

Start talking and keep on talking, long after the campaigns are out done and out of the limelight. Just because the causes and campaigns are over, does not mean that stigma surrounding mental health stops. 

I will never have the lime light shining on me, but I do know that by my talking, I shine a light that  reaches and helps someone else.

Those are my thoughts for the day.
Cheers and be well

Suzy




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
Suzy






Tuesday, 22 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


Suzy 

Thursday, 19 May 2016

CHOCOLATE….Now that I have you Attention…..


It has been a while since my last blog post, actually about 9 weeks, my how the time flies. It, as always, has been an interesting time, some struggles, some good time, so not so good times, but I am grateful for every day.

As I write this a laugh to myself, because I remember the times that were really bad, and time did anything but fly. Times where I was struggling and it took everything in me to put one foot in front of the other. Times where thinking about making it through “the day” was too overwhelming. I had to break the day down into 15 minute increments, telling myself I could make it through the next 15 minutes, then repeat that thought throughout the time it took to get better. As it got better it was 1 hour increments, then the morning, afternoon, evening night, etc.

Why do I think of this now?

Because, in the last 8 weeks, I have given 5 presentations to youth, talked to a residency Dr. about Dissociative Identity Disorder and been interviewed on a radio show about living with this disorder, and the stigma around mental health. http://bbsradio.com/podcast/quyns-empowerment-hour-april-30-2016   And as I said in the radio interview, I never ever thought I would be where I am now, and doing what I do, and doing it successfully.

Also during this time, I have been working on balance, what fuels me, what depletes me. It has been an interesting journey.  This will be a lifelong journey, and I’m fine with that. Life is not stagnant, it’s an ever flowing journey and we are along for the tide. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes is crappy, and sometimes it’s friggin fantastic.

Each time I give a presentation, one of the 1st things I do is give everyone in the audience 2 pieces of chocolate,and pretty much everyone always smiles when this happens. Later in the talk I tell them…”This morning when you got up, none of you knew you were going to get chocolate when you came to this class/workshop, you had no idea, and by the looks of it, you were all happy about it. Life is like that, we never know what is around the corner for us, so when you get in those tough times, those dark times, remember the chocolate, remember you don’t know what is around the corner for you- hang on for those chocolate moments, because they will come.

I’m glad I hung on to discover what was around my corner.

Those are my thoughts for today, may you be safe in your journey- and discover chocolate.
Suzy

PS-please feel free to share the radio interview- as well as these blogs- we never know who they may help

Friday, 11 March 2016

Recovery is like the arrival of Spring…

Recovery is like the arrival of Spring…

I have come to the conclusion that recovery is like the arrival of spring.  Spring may appear to “suddenly be here” but, if we are watchful, we see that it slowly comes into being.

Spring is growth personified. There is a lot we don’t see, and I have come to understand that my recovery is also like that.

In the past 48 hours, I have noticed the long awaited arrival of better moments. Moments which include improved brain functioning, a sense of wellbeing and a lightness within my soul. People who see me in the next day of two may think that I am suddenly better, but in reality, I have been working long and hard to get to this point.

There have been many, many gut retching therapy appointments, days of complete exhausting where I feel like I am wearing a lead suit while walking through mud. Times I have had too push myself to get up out of bed and out of the house. I have felt anger, frustration and sadness. But I always knew, even in the darkest times, that I was growing and doing what I needed to get better. To those who don’t know me, this may have looked like anything but growth, but those who are close, know differently.  

In the spring, long before we see leaves unfurl on the Honeysuckle vine, the lilac buds start to show, or the crocuses breaking through the earth, there is much going on underground.  Roots and seeds are awakening, stretching and cracking open in the darkness, where there is no light. But lack of light does not stop this growth from happening. Just because we don’t see it, does not mean it is not going on.

I think back to when I fractured my ankle in January of 2005. I needed surgery and now have a plate and 7 pins in my right ankle.  In the days following I required painkillers, lots of rest, and the aid of others. What we didn’t see was the bones healing and knitting themselves back together. In time I was able to get up, learned how to use a walker, then crunches, a walking boot and then after some time it was healed.

Of course the progress of a physical injury or illness is much easier to see then a mental illness. Society is much more accepting and accommodating of a physical then a mental illness, but it’s slowly changing. Like the arrival of spring, lots of growth and change is happening that we don’t see. Mental illness and the importance of mental health is slowly coming into the spot light, and more and more people are creating respectful dialogue around this. Science and technology are giving us a better understanding of what’s going on, and we do know, we are just scratching the surface. We have a long way to go, but it’s a start.

So when you get times where all you see is dark, remember, the seed still breaks open and the roots stretch and awaken in the dark.

I’m pretty sure there will be times, where I will once again struggle, will require the aid of others, need lots of rest and may need medication. That’s ok- just like when I fractured my ankle, healing will be happening in these moments and I am doing what I need to do to take care of myself and get better.

Where ever you are in your journey,, may always hear Spring gentle whispering on your doorstep.
 
Those are my thoughts for today

Cheers and be well


Suzy