IM Going Outward Bound Once Again- Well, Sort of.

IM Going Outward Bound Once Again- Well, Sort of.

Monday 27 April 2015

The Ripples of Hope....

Just over 2 weeks ago, I moved to a temporary community of just over 350 citizens. This community assembled itself in a hotel in downtown Vancouver and existed for a short 28.5 hours. Although this village was temporary- the effects of such a gathering will continue to be far reaching.

I am talking about The Children and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative April 8th and 9th, and like the one I went to Kelowna in September-(see blog post We Can Move Forward With Mental Illness) - It was an amazing and empowering couple of days and I am still digesting and processing that incredible event.

It was not just a gathering of parents, policy makers, teachers, councillors, RCMP, service providers, doctors, family, youth, and many more. It was a community!! A powerful community, hearing and talking from the heart, with authenticity, courage, hope and frustration.  A community where everyone was supported, no matter what hat they were wearing, as we are all in this together! Once that is realized, we can pull on each other’s strengths and the results have been and will continue to be amazing.

Community is so important, as I found out and wrote in my last blog post. It was because I had a community that I called in for help and support that I was able to get through my last mental health challenge- or as some say “breakthrough.” Knowing you are not alone can be life changing. Having connection can be lifesaving!

There are times when I feel what I am doing around mental health is not enough. I often feel like a very small pebble in a huge pond- and at times a vast ocean- and wonder if I make a difference. I am sure, everyone at that collaborative have wondered the same thing one time or another. Being at that collaborative showed me, that yes, what I am doing in my little corner of the world, does make a difference, and I hope, everyone else that was there realized that they too, are making a difference.

It was a whirlwind 28.5 hours. I met amazing people, had amazing discussions and gained valuable insights. I shared some great laughs, heartfelt moments and shed a few tears. When I told someone this they said “Wow that sounds complex.” Maybe that is true, but life is complex. Living with a mental illness is complex! Working with those of us with mental illness is complex! It’s not easy, and it sure the Hell is not straight forward. There is no x-ray to tell you what is wrong, no straight forward plan that will help everyone. But by pulling away the” facades” of “what” or “who” we should be, by allowing ourselves and others to “take off their hats” and  be their authentic self, we can connect on a much deeper level. By creating a safe and supportive environment to acknowledge our strengths and challenges, we create a much stronger, open, accepting community, and we can collaborate at what works best for us. There is no “Us or Them”, it’s a “We” and we are in this together.

It was an amazing time. As I sat in the room with 357 other people, I had a thought. If I am a small pebble in a pond, I still make a ripple. If every one of these 357 people in the room are small pebbles, and make ripples, put us all together and we will make a pretty amazing wave.

We are making a wave, a movement forward with Youth and mental health. A wave that I wish I had in my youth, but since I didn't I will do what I can to keep this one moving forward. I feel honoured that I got to take part in this amazing event. It gives me encouragement and hope that it can get better.
Even though this community of dedicated citizens only lasted 28.5 hours, this village may have disassembled, and members gone their separate ways,  we are still a community. We are still concerned about our youth and their mental health, and we all will continue to do what we can, to make it better. I look forward to seeing  what shores this wave lands on.

Those are my thoughts for today, may you all be safe and well in your journeys.
Cheers and be well
To learn more about the Collaborative, and The FORCE Society For Kids Mental Health, and other helpful resources click on the links below

Wednesday 1 April 2015

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men.......

As Robert Burns Wrote in his poem “To a Mouse”  “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”
(The saying is adapted from a line: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”)

No matter which way you can say it, it’s a bloody understatement!!!

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I had been struggling, and was doing a lot of self-care and asking for help. I had talked about seeing my Dr. and hitting a bad patch, and requesting admittance into the unit at the local hospital. My Dr. and I agreed this is what was needed, I had my support plan in place, I had pulled away from activities etc. to work on my stuff and do what I needed to do to take care of myself, and hospital admittance was the next step. 

Well….”The best laid plans of mice and men”…….it sure the Hell went awry…..

I had an appointment with my Dr. in the morning and with my therapist in the afternoon. After seeing my Dr. he contacted the hospital and then my therapist to tell her that the hospital did not have a spot and it looked like they would not in the near future. When my therapist told me this I felt like my world had fallen apart, I had worked so hard to stay safe and had been proactive and it was not working-so I thought.

Needless to say I went through a range of emotions in my therapist’s office, everything from anger, sadness, fear, anxiety and a range of other emotions.I was scared, I had no idea what else to do. I did not want to get to the crisis point I have had in the past, but my plan had suddenly been derailed.

Then my therapist talked to me about making a new support plan, calling in the resources of my friends and family. Needless to say this scared the crap out of me.  I had no idea how to do this work outside of the hospital. I kept thinking back to the beginning of my work, and how bad it went, and how hard it was. My friends and family had seen me struggle, but with this work, I had done it in the hospital.  I was afraid for them to see me this bad, and needing the supports I would need.

But, I had two choices. I could try to keep it together on my own- (which I knew was not going to happen, and I would end up in crisis mode, end up in emergency many times, and be the worst for it) or I could reach out and ask for me help.

I opted to ask for help. Believe me, this has been one of the hardest things I have ever done, and on many levels I was terrified. Terrified to have people see me in this state, see the ‘real me” terrified to feel this vulnerable.

Let me explain a little about this fear. I grew up in a family where the caregivers were not mentally healthy themselves. One moment they would be loving and take care of me, another time they would ignore my needs, neglect or abuse me. Now imagine a young child trying to figure out what to do when they are hurt- do I go to the person who is supposed to take care of me, wait- I can’t do that because this is the same person that hurts me. This creates what is called disorganized attachment. Here is a link to learn more

So, needless to say I have no idea what to do. So my therapist and I talk about why it helps me when I am in the hospital, we write these down. Then my therapist and I put together a support plan to give to my Dr., family and friends to let them know what was going on with me, that I could not get into the hospital and what they could do to help me through this very difficult and challenging time. We wrote this out in rough draft and later that day, my therapist sent it to my e-mail. I read it, made any changes if needed and then the time send it out into cyber space…..

Let me tell you…I walked back and forth, telling myself why I should and should not ask for help. My heart was racing my palms were sweaty, I was light headed, I felt like I was going to throw up. I had many conversations going on in my head why this was not a good idea and why it would not work-“no one will understand, no one cares, if they see how broken I am I will lose the friends I now have, they will think I am weak, it’s not really that bad, they won’t understand,  they will say they’ll help, but they won’t, just like before  etc, etc, etc. ” all of these “stories were wrong by the way!!!!!

So, with beating heart, trembling hands and sweaty palms, I sent my support plan out into cyber space having no idea what the result would be. I sent it to friends I thought might come on board and to my ringette team. 

I have posted the plan at the end of this blog post.

The response was amazing, I am blown away and still get tears of gratitude when I think back to that time. The unconditional love and support I received, and continue to receive still moves me to my core.  They all pitched in and helped me through a very dark and tough time. One friend even brought me a nightlight in the shape of a tea cup, and in the card she wrote-“So you will never be alone on the dark again.”

 I had people checking in with me via phone, text, Facebook and in person. One friend phoned me 4 times a day at a scheduled time, mid-morning, mid-afternoon, early evening and later evening before bed.

Another friend- who is a pshy nurse texted and checked in with me throughout the days and let me know she was there any time, day or night. My ringette team set up a schedule of daily visits with me and to make sure I got out for a bit of a walk every day- no matter how reluctant I was.  People scheduled me in their days for visits, -e-mails, phone calls, texts etc. This was a great example where social media worked and pulled everyone together to support me. One of the ringette players who now lives in another town, sent me a card every day for 2 weeks, it was amazing.

 I had 4 people, some friends, some professionals (one still practicing, and one retired who is now a dear friend)- I could call in the wee hours of the night when things were dark, both figuratively and physically. Believe me I did call them.  It was hard for me to do so, and the old tapes of the past would creep into my brain telling me that I would be bothering them, why can’t I do this on my own etc. - but I did call them and it made all the difference in the world.

 People brought me cards, flowers, goodies, breakfast and lunch, hugs and I had someone visit every day. I visited my family Dr. every day and he told me I could have daily check-ins’ with him for as long as I needed. A good friend picked me up and made sure I got there and back safely.  My therapist visited me or phoned me every day. I had an amazing amount of e-mails, messages and texts of love and support.

I guess in some aspects it was a giant love in and I was the center of attention.

It was a challenging time, and as I said reaching out for help, was challenging, actually scared the crap out of me, -it’s a long story to do with past trauma and disorganized attachment issues- but on so many levels I’m glad I took the risk. To put it simply, it showed me once again that the world is much safer than I ever thought possible and I am now connected and connecting with people, and myself, on a level I never thought possible.

And, it once again showed me it’s safe to talk about my mental illness and the challenges around it, and once again, I see by doing that, it allows others to talk about it.

I am recovering, and once again life has shown me that I never know what is around the corner. 

  On the 21st of February I received notice that I was nominated for The Canadian Alliance Champions of Mental Health Award, I was so surprised that you could have knocked me over with a feather.  To think that someone thought that much of what I do was, to say the least, a pleasant surprise. One of the  local paper also did a piece about.

Last week a friend took me to see Shane Koyzcan, an amazing spoken word artist. I had heard and watched him on Youtube, read some of his stuff but I had never seen him live. It was amazing. He was powerful, funny and authentic. He spoke about what is often unspoken. I laughed, and I cried and that was ok. Here is a link to some of his work

Next week I am going to the Child and Youth mental Health and Substance Use ( CYMHSU) Collaborative next week in Vancouver. I am being sent by The Force Society and am looking forward to learning more and re connecting with the amazing people I met in Kelowna last September.

I am still struggling. I don’t know how long I will continue to struggle, but I do know I need to take the time it takes. There are no manuals for what I am dealing with, no maps or instruction booklets.  I often feel like I am going through this blind, but I do know…I can and will ask for help, and it will come. I know that even if my loved ones do not understand they are here beside me, to hold my hand, make me a tea, and give me a smile or a hug. I know the professionals in my life will make time for me and help and support me through this, and any other rough time.  I know, that this too will end, I will come out of this, I will see the bright side. This, like life is a journey, and I have an amazing team to help me through it.

I am on a voyage of discovery, of who I really am. There will be good times, there will be tough times, doors will close and new ones will open….and all along I have an amazing support team. And when things get rough I will remember Shane Koyzcan words in his poem ``Instructions For a Bad Day``…  Realize every dark cloud is a smoke screen meant to blind us from the truth, and the truth is whether we see them or not - the sun and moon are still there and always there is light. ``

Those are my thoughts for today- I wish you all well on your life’s journeys
Cheers and be well

My Support plan sent to friends, family and Dr.
 Hi folks,
Your friend Suzy needs your help this week. 

In the past, when she’s had emotionally stormy weather, she’s been able to go into St Joseph’s “Spa” as she jokingly calls it. That’s not an option this time – gatekeeping of the beds is tighter and tighter as budgets tighten. Since there’s “no room at the inn” she’s going to do this personal work at home. She’s found this inner work process usually takes 5-7 days.

You need to know that both her physician and her counselor are confident that this will be a safe process – in fact probably a pretty important breakthrough to feel safe and vulnerable at the same time with her chosen family (that’s you!).

When she went on the Women of Courage course there was a “solo” challenge – a day alone and an overnight alone, with support staff camped nearby. She’s on a different kind of solo this week, and she’s asking for your support to be nearby…

What support is needed?
-          Friends who can step forward and offer to be “on call” for one or more nights in case she needs to make a late night phone call to hear a loving voice remind her of her strengths & her circle of support – (call or e-mail if you can do this, with the night you’re able to wake if needed)
-          Other friends who can step forward and call to check in on her (help break any trances of aloneness or numbness) on a schedule. We need volunteers to call morning, mid afternoon, early evening, and a before bed (9pm call) – someone to coordinate this would be great!
-          Visiting – Suzy can set some visiting hours – to make a cup of tea, to hold her hand or offer a hug, just “be” – no need to “fix” her – she’s not broken, just in a recovering stage that makes her a little more vulnerable than you’re used to.
-          Cards & letters – visual expressions of love & support are great to re-open and re-read in the darker hours when she needs to remind herself of her current world that’s “camped nearby”
-          Reminders that she’s probably going to be “rolo-dexing” through defense patterns (Fight Flight Freeze Submit/Collapse, Attach)so she may need help just labeling and letting go of storylines and just witness the defense:
-          • angry ranting or frustration = Fight
• thoughts of ending it, numbing out, putting up a wall = Flight
• terror of facing this week out of the hospital = Freeze
• numbing out, abject sadness = Collapse
• feeling abandoned by the system = Attach
This labeling helps defuse, helps soothe, helps make sense of the emotional storms. 
-          reassurance that this process has an end -- this is not a setback – this is progress and it’s only a few days.
-          Folks who might invite her out to walk each day (regardless of reluctance J)

-          You don’t need to ask what happened in the past -- that’s not the work. The work is trusting the present and trusting the fact that she is not alone – that her support system is here even when she’s more vulnerable and perhaps more needy than usual.

-          Suzy will be in daily contact with her counselor. She’s arranged to keep in close contact with her physician.

If you have questions or concerns about this you can e-mail me,  or call the office  (I check messages morning and night).

This is a sad but always sacred process that yields increasing wellbeing and joy.

 To be invited in is a profound endorsement of trust.