In just over 72 hours, I am going in an amazing 8 day epic journey. No, this is not a cruise, Club med, or trip to the Caribbean, this is a journey that will happen in my own back yard. I am going on an Outward Bound Canada, Women of Courage course! http://www.outwardbound.ca/course_index.asp?Category=111
If you have been reading my D.I.D. blog for a while, you may know I have gone on one of these courses just over 18 months ago, in the Canadian Rookies. It was a journey of a life time, and like this one, there was no one to carry my bags or make my beds, it was a backpacking trip, for a week, in the amazing Rocky Mountains. When I finished that course,-at times I did wonder if I would finish it - I never thought I would be taking another one so soon.
Outward Bound are not luxury, fresh sheets, hotel lobby kind of trips. I tell people “this aint no tea party” In fact, they are hard, emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually, but they are an amazing gift.
What is the Women of Courage program about? Here is a bit from their web site
“Outward Bound Canada’s Women of Courage Program offers inspiring journeys of adventure, challenge and healing in the Canadian wilderness for women who have experienced violence and/or abuse. This may include sexual, physical or emotional abuse perpetrated by any individual, and experienced at any time during a woman’s life. Led by our expert team of talented and compassionate female instructors, courses focus predominantly on increasing self-esteem and self-reliance, building supportive relationships with other women, enhancing body awareness and encouraging a sense of physical strength - serving as a catalyst for powerful growth and change. Since 1988, over 1000 women have experienced this transformative journey with Outward Bound Canada.”
It is an amazing experience. This trip will happen at the north end of Vancouver Island, and it will be one of the most challenging ones for me. I grew up on Vancouver Island, This is my home. It is also a place full or triggers, flashbacks and where horrific things happened to me. I was born in Victoria and moved up to the Comox Valley when I was 8 years old. I moved away when I was 25, thinking that I could run away from my past, I soon found out that was not so. 10 years, and many life events later I moved back to the Comox Valley. That was 20 years ago. It has been a journey.
When I tell some people I will be going on a backpacking trip somewhere in Cape Scott Park, most of them think it’s a really neat adventure. But this is not going on a trip with a bunch of friends, resting and sitting around a campfire, drinking wine, sitting and lazing the days away.
Some people ask me ‘why would you want to do that!” Well, each to their own, but I am going because I want to be challenged, in a supportive environment, and see what I can really do.
This may not be a big deal for some, but for people that have been abused as children, the scars last a life time. For me, I carried around fear, self-doubt and a feeling of worthlessness most of my life. Some people say- “why can’t you just get over it- it happened so long ago?” Which, I now realize was their issue with it, but once again at the time it made me feel like I was once again doing something wrong. Why couldn’t I get better, why was I feeling like I did, why could I not “just pull my socks up?”
Studies now show that childhood adversities can affect a person over their life time. I’m not feeling this way or have my mental health issues because I am weak or lazy or “just refuse to move on” The severe abuse, terror and neglect I suffered for 20 years, has affected the way my brain works. Here are a couple of links explaining what happens.
But, as always with my blogs, I talk about HOPE !!!
15 years ago, I had no idea I would be where I am now, in fact I had no idea if I would be alive. I could never have imagined I would be the mental health educator/advocate/writer that I am today. I could never imagine the joy, connection and love I feel for, and from people around me. I could never imagine I would feel such profound gratitude for the life I have now, and those who are in it. I have worked hard to get here, I have had amazing professionals, friends and family members who believed in me when I could not believe in myself. I have had people see worth, love and light in me when all I felt and saw was darkness. I have had, and continue to have, people in my life, who will carry the light for me, and help guide me, when I can’t see around the dark corner. I will be forever grateful.
I have been on a long healing journey, to find out why I was feeling/acting like I did. To discover who I am and who I could be, and to discover potential in me that I never knew was there. And Outward Bound has helped me along the way. I am slowly taking my life back. Sure, I still have bad days, some real, real bad days, but I am having more and more good days. I will always have challenges around my illness, but as I tell the youth I talk to, I am not my illness. I am slowly but surely discovering the light that is within me.
I have worked long and hard to find my way back home- metaphorically speaking. Meaning, it has been, and will continue to be a journey of discovery, pulling away the layers and finding the real, authentic me. Finding the Me, before all the abuse and crap happened. The Me, that could smile for a camera, before that all took an evil turn. The Me, that resides deep within, waiting for the moment when it is safe and supportive, to be able to come out.
When I was little, I loved being outside,running, laying in the grass watching the clouds go by, listening to the birds, smelling the ocean, feeling the wind on my face. I loved being around trees, the smell of the old cedar logs and laying on a bed of moss. But, then a time came when even those scared spaces and moments were no longer safe.
I have been homeless, cold, hungry and hiding in the pouring rain, freezing waiting for the chaos to finish so I could go home again.
On this backpacking trip, being in my own back yard, I am going to be running into all those memories, flashbacks and triggers front and center. But I have worked hard to get where I am and I have also sent Outward Bound a support plan, with suggestions on what the instructors can do to help me stay in the moment if I do get triggered.
For me, this Outward Bound, Women of Courage trip is about two things. Taking back my home, the mountains and ocean, trees, sand, wind, sun, rain and stars. To let go of the triggers and create space to welcome home the Me that was lost all those years ago.
Outward Bound Women of Courage is not just an outdoor adventure, it is a journey to find and discover. This is not “just a backpacking trip.” This is a mission to find once again those sacred spaces and times and to bring home the lost. It’s going to be one a Hell of a welcoming home party!
Those are my thoughts for now, I will report back in once I get back and recover form this amazing discovery.
Cheers and be well, and safe on your journeys.