There is No Perfect Offering...

There is No Perfect Offering...

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Forget Your Perfect Offering…

Forget Your Perfect Offering…

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

It’s been an interesting month.

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

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

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

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

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

I have always liked Leonard Cohen’s words  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers and be we]]





Sunday, 17 December 2017

Do What is right For You….



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

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

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

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

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

This is what my self-care looks like.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Suzy

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Baby Steps Add Up...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers and be well
Suzy
PS- here is a link to The I.S.S.T.D. http://www.isst-d.org/

Here is a link to Christine C. Former, she was amazing, authentic, knowledgeable and funny J https://www.thetraumatherapistproject.com/podcast/christine-forner-ba-bsw-msw/

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