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

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

Sunday 31 May 2015

One Step at a Time,..Repeat...Repeat....Repeat....

It has been 4 weeks since my last blog post, and like my life, what I plan on doing and what ends up happening is often two different things.

The month of April was pretty busy for me, actually really busy, and I thought I would have a nice quiet May. Since May is Mental Health Month, I had signed up for a blog challenge, #Blog4MH , and thought I would write a blog every two weeks. As you can see, it did not turn out that way. But, I am learning that is fine, and I have learned a thing or two about myself on the way.

I have come to the conclusion that life, everyone’s life, is made up of millions of single steps at a time. I have also learned that if I look at life and what I want to do, one step at a time, it helps ease my panic and anxiety about “having to get it done now”

Let’s start with my garden.  I really enjoy my garden, I grow flowers because as I told someone asked me “Why don’t you grow food, it could feed you,” my reply was “I grow flowers because flowers feed my soul.” My poor garden was pretty much neglected last year, I had no energy and the flowers and weeds were having a great “Love In,” and by this spring the crab grass was so high I could sit down in it and no one would see me.

It was a daunting task when I looked at it, and seemed overwhelming, there was so much of it. This was a challenge as in the past if things seemed overwhelming I would give up- this is an old defence mechanism from childhood- But, one morning I think “time to get going on this.” I spent two hours out there the 1st morning, and it was a mess. As I am pulling, digging and yanking out the crabgrass and weeds, it seems like I am getting nowhere there is so much of it. The Sweet Williams that in the past covered most of the garden with its amazing display of scent and colour, were few and far between. They were being chocked out.  When I finished it looked like I didn’t even put a dent in it. I go back out for a couple hours in the early morning the next day. I continue this for the rest of the week then on a Saturday spend 2 hours in the afternoon, and 3 hours that evening, and the garden is ready for more seeds.

For me, gardening is very therapeutic. While pulling the weeds I thought taking care of my garden is like taking care of my mental health. My garden will always have crabgrass, once it’s in your garden, its roots travel far and wide and come up all over the place. I will always have my mental illness, and it will be far reaching, and show up in unexpected places, but if I can keep on top of both, I will benefit.

 I planted some seeds and have started to water them, and of course, as soon as they come up- which still amazes me- some crabgrass starts to pop through. It’s good to pull the young crabgrass out, but doing so would pull up the seedlings, so I have decided to leave the crabgrass there, until the seedlings are big enough and strong enough so that they will not be disturbed when I pull out the grass.

This reflects my life in so many ways. I only have so much energy. As I told a friend the other day, “I only get so many M.P.G. - (Miles per gallon,) - and some days the mileage is worse than others. I need to be mindful of what my mileage is every day, and act accordingly. Some days I will start off with a full tank but it will be empty by lunch time, some days it will last me the whole day, and some days I start with an empty tank. I have to be very mindful and self-caring those days when my tank is empty. If I try to do too much on those days, even if it’s something I want to do, it will take longer for me to recover and fill my tanks.  Just like disturbing the young seedlings, it will take the plant more energy to get re rooted.

The middle of this month I had about 10 days where I didn’t have much gas. It was frustrating to say the least and I was stressing about doing another blog post. This stress only came from myself, no one else, but it’s an old deprivation behaviour- “if I don’t get it done now it will never get done,”  and the good ole Complex P.T.S.D. “ I have to get it done because I said I would and I will be in trouble etc. if I don’t.

I realized neither was true, but my nervous system felt different. So it took a lot of self-care, energy and mindfulness on my part to not get so worked up about it. And, as you all see, I did survive, the world did not come to an end because I didn’t write the amount of blog posts I said I would.
This month, being Mental Health month, I have been busy with speaking engagements. I have spoken to 4 groups or classes so far and I have two more coming up this week. I LOVE doing this, I get so much out of it and the youth and adults I have spoken to have been amazing and asked great questions.

Every time I come away feeling amazed, grateful and honoured that people and youth have stepped out of there comfort zone, and welcomed me and we have had some amazing conversations.  I have received emails from the facilitators or teachers.
thank you a zillion times over and over.
You rock.
kids talking about you in the halls all afternoon.""

…”Thank you for your time and amazing insight, stories and perspectives. The students have been coming up to me – telling me that you have made the most impact on them out of all our speakers. They really appreciated how you made your presentation real for them. They took away useful information that they could immediately use.”

 She was taking a lot in. Her life sucks and she feels helpless. I believe you gave her back some Hope. Thank you so much for that.”..

“Your message is very powerful; not soap boxy or victimizing, but empowering. You are doing the work you were meant to do and the rest of us need to hear it. You really do have a gift.

More than once someone once asked me how did I end up speaking about mental health, sometime my answer is just taking one step at a time, not knowing where I was going, but knew I needed to keep moving forward.

And, speaking of one step at a time, I am going on another Outward Bound course.

This is a Women of Courage course, for women who have had violence at some time in their life and I am doing a backpacking course at the north end of Vancouver Island. 

 I didn’t know about this course until April 27th when a friend sent me the info- we had both been on the one in the Rookie Mountains in September of 2013. I thought about it for a few hours and said ” "Suzy, sometimes the universe sends you a gift and you have to step forward and take it.” So I sent in an inquiry, they sent me the forms, I filled those out, then there was the hour long interview on the phone, then they talked to my therapist, and yes, I am accepted and the course starts 2 weeks today.

This is going to be a huge challenge both physically and emotionally. When I did the one in the Rookies I remember on the 1st day saying to self…”You should have practiced more on the stairs at the Spit” By one of the beaches here, a set of stairs has been built that you can go up, and the view is amazing.

 So as soon as I sent in my application I started to go up them. The 1st morning I went up I could not believe how hard they were, I was only up the 20th step and I had to take a break. “Wholly crap” I thought, “How the Hell am I going to be able to do these?” Well, I did do them one very slow step at a time. And I have done them 5 times every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning since then. 

I am not fast or run up them, but I do get up them and I am getting stronger in the legs and lungs each time I do it.  When I start to get tired I take a breathing break and then carry on. These breathing breaks have gotten shorter and the recovery time is quicker. I still get tired when I do them and when this happens I focus on the stair in front of me and tell myself “One step at a time”

Last Saturday I received confirmation the course is a go and I am going, so I started to walk around town with a loaded pack. I am now carrying 37 lbs. for 4 miles. It’s not easy and once again I  have to break the walk down to one step at a time.

I will not have the amount of time to train as I did for the trip in the Rookies, and I was worried about that, but then realized, I am in better shape than I was a month ago, so that helps.

I have been on other Women of Courage Courses, the one I mentioned in the Rookies and I took a canoeing one in Ontario in 2005. They have all been amazing, challenging and I have recovered a part of myself on each trip. But I think this one will be the most challenging emotionally for me. 

The other two trips took places where I had never been, but this one, being on the island, is taking place “In my back yard” I grew up on the island and this is where all the abuse, trauma and terror happened. I love being in the woods but as I wrote in my safety/support plan for the instructors …
“I grew up on Vancouver Island, and this course is taking place in “my back yard” meaning, this is where 20 years of severe and horrific abuse, neglect and terror happened to me. The smell of a rotting cedar log, sound of wind through the maples, smell of the ocean can all bring about flashbacks. I am usually fine with these but in moments of stress they may flare up….. Being short of breath, cold, wet and hungry is another trigger…”

So as you can see this is going to be a huge challenge in more ways than one. But I know the Outward Bound staff are experienced, supportive and they have my support plan to help me through these challenges. They know I have Dissociative Identity Disorder, and Complex PTSD, and I know I will come back a much stronger, whole happier person for taking this trip.

Some people have asked me “Why would you want to go on something like that?” I guess the answer is that it is another step forward for me. Yes, I’m nervous, especially about the 24 hour solo section of the course. I’m nervous about being cold, wet and hungry and being triggered, and running out of breath. But I also know, this is an amazing opportunity for me to push myself a little further- actually a lot- in a supportive environment, and take back my life, take back that part of myself that loved the smell, colours and textures of the outdoors before the trauma happened. This is an amazing opportunity to start “Taking back my home.”

Yes I will get frustrated, angry, upset and ask myself many times “Why the Hell did I think this was a good idea.”  “ If I had known it was going to be this hard I would not have signed up” There will be moments of elation as I survived being pushed further then I thought possible, and I’m sure moments of laughter and connectedness. And, I’m sure there will be times where all I can focus on is moving one step at a time.

But I know it will be worth it.

I think back to my garden and pulling all the weeds. I was sitting crossed legged in the grass pulling and digging at the chunks of crabgrass and swearing at it when something pricked into my hand. After swearing again, I took a look, and there in amongst all the weeds and tangle, was a tiny rose bush I had planted a couple of years ago. And growing upward through all the grass and weeds was a thin branch with a single beautiful pink rose on it. I stopped, looked at it for a moment and thought, “There is always hope.” This plant had never flowered before.

When I speak to the parents, youth, and write my blogs I like to think I give people hope and encourage them to keep moving forward one step at a time. Life can be hard, it will be full of challenges, trials and tribulations, but it is all worth it.

I went an watered my garden this morning  and the seeds I planted are coming up, and the Sweet Williams that were choked out, are coming back, finer and stronger than ever.

Those are my thoughts for today, may you all be safe in your journeys.

Cheers and be well


Sunday 3 May 2015

Blog for mental health #1

The month of May is Mental Health month, and I had read about #Blog4MH  which is a challenge to write a weekly blog about mental health/illness. I thought about it and I didn’t know if I could do one a week, so I committed to one every 2 weeks. I had no idea what I was going to write about, but as usual, the universe gave me the answer, for this blog post anyway.

I play golf, I belong to one of the local golf clubs here in the Comox Valley. Pretty much everyone I golf with knows of my mental illness and challenges and they accept and support me. They don’t make me feel different, or like a freak of nature, and many have come up to me and opened up about mental health challenges of their own, a family member or friend. Many ask me questions to try to help them understand me more, my illness and I appreciate all of this.

Last Friday night, was the 1st mixer of the season. It’s where men and women of the club get together to play a fun game of golf. It’s called “best ball,” which means just as it says. Players all hit their ball, and you pick the best shot, and all the balls are picked up and placed where the best shot is. We then all hit our ball from that spot. It’s a fun social event and never taken seriously.

As being that last Friday was the 1st one of the season, it was a good time to catch up with everyone because many of us had not seen each other since last September. As I was talking to someone they mentioned that I didn't make it to their anniversary celebration earlier in the spring. I told them I had not been doing well, and that it was a really hard winter and spring for me mental health wise. Their reply was “I thought you were all finished with that stuff.” My reply “No, my mental health is a lifelong issue.”

Now I'm not mad at this person. I knew they meant no harm and I suspect that they were saddened to hear that I was once again struggling. But it did show me how much misunderstanding is out there, even in my circles.

Now, not everyone who has a mental health issue/illness will have it for their life time. Some people may have one bout of depression and that’s it, but many of us will have more. Two people may have the same diagnoses, but it may affect each one differently. There is no cut and dry answer to this, no “one way” to help everyone and that is one of the many, many things that makes it hard for people to understand. It so very complex.

That is why we need to start talking.

I could have gotten upset at that persons comment, in fact in the past I probably would have. This goes to show you how far I have come. But I know they did not do it out of malice, they said it out of ignorance- meaning not understanding. And by giving the reply I did, then carrying on with where ever the conversation went, I hope I taught that person something. Not only do I think I taught them something new, but I created a welcoming environment for positive future mental health dialogue if they wish.

If I had gotten mad, and started yelling or made some ignorant snide comment back at them, it might have made me feel better momentarily, but in the long run, we both would have lost an opportunity to teach and learn.

When I was 1st diagnosed I would argue with people who said/wrote my “illness was not real,”  “was something I made up to get attention” “would be fine if I just pulled my socks up” etc. etc., etc.  But in time I learned that I only have so much energy, and I’m not going to waste it arguing with someone who is closed minded and didn't want to have respectful dialogue. In time I have learned to say, “I respectfully agree that we disagree.” And I am fine with that.

I don’t need to conquer the world. I started to choose who to speak to, and how much to say, and in time more and more people have listened, opened up and asked questions. As the old proverb goes “You can catch more flies with honey then you do with vinegar”

Or as in golf lingo “I choose to play the best ball.”

I am probably the healthiest I have ever been with my mental illness. I have come such a long way, it’s been a Hell of a lot of work but it is so worth it. I think back to the early days of a time when I thought I truly was losing my mind. A time where I thought I was alone in the world and the only one feeling what I was feeling. A time where I thought if anyone found out they would think less of me. I now know different.

Yes I will have good days and not so good days, and probably some real crappy days. And I will continue to play golf, have some good games, some not do good games, and some real crappy games.

 But my golf game, like my illness, is not indicative to who I am as a person.

Those are my thoughts for today, I wish you are well in your journeys.  
Cheers and be well