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

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

Friday 14 December 2018

Self Compassion...

It’s the second week in December- where did the time go- and I am already starting to feel stressed out. I have a hard time because I really like Christmas, and I’m feeling the stress more this year. It could be that I’m feeling it more, because I’m not as numb or disconnected as I used to be- which is a good thing. So another learning curve.

I was thinking about this the other night when I couldn’t sleep- yes, that’s par for this time of the year for me, but at least now when I wake up, it’s no longer in a panic. Another sign of growth and healing. But, I still wake in the wee hours of the night, one step at a time I guess.

So during those wee hours of the night I was thinking about how far I have come. From being so dissociative and disconnected I could not remember what I did a day ago, let alone two hours ago.  I have made huge leaps in connection with my loved ones as well as myself. It has been an amazing year of travels, adventures and the Courage to Come Back Award, by Coast Mental Health in May. It has been an Epic year.

So, why, if I have done all of that, and I once again find myself tired and feeling stressed in December.

There have been a few added things I have done in the last few weeks. One was a four day trip to Vancouver. It was an amazing trip- I had a meeting with a couple folks and talked about writing and the process of doing a TED Talk. I met up with a young women I connected with a few years ago at the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative, and Family Smart. I attended the WE Day Vancouver. This was all good. I had some down time and played. It was a great time, and with all this I came back from Vancouver more inspired and confident than ever.

So why am I feeling the stress, waking in the middle of the night  etc…I have come to the conclusion it’s because  physiological , terror and excitement, as far as the nervous system is concerned is the same thing. My nervous system is still working on learning the difference between the two. While I have come a long way in this regard, put in a triggering time of year etc and it will sometimes forget.

 I learned at a very young age to be hypervigilant, to become acutely aware and sensitive of my surroundings and the people in it.  So, if something didn’t go according to plan, or a slight shift in moods etc happened- my system thought that meant danger. Then if anything that was planned went sideways…well the stress factor would climb. Let’s say I was planning to get on a ferry to go over to the mainland, and I missed the ferry. In reality, I may miss a show or a game, but I am not in danger, that’s the reality of the present day, calm nervous system. But in my trauma brain and nervous system, all sorts of things are happening.

One of the main things we need to remember here, is this- we can only fall back on the knowledge and experiences of our past to help us connect and deal with the present situations.

If I was brought up in a safe environment, and as a child we missed the ferry, I would be allowed to feel the disappointment of missing a show etc, but I would have felt loved, safe and supported, allowed to process those emotions and never felt like my life was in danger.

However, because I was brought up in a chaotic, violent, neglectful, household, where the only constant was inconsistency. The only thing I could count on was knowing that I never knew what was going to happen, weather it was going to be safe or not, etc.  Would it be the good parent or the bad parent on the other side of the door? Would I come in through the door and there would be no reaction, but total neglect and I had to fend for myself, finding food, -which I often had to steal- getting wood for the stove etc.

My nervous system, on high alert was ready for anything, ready to take action to keep myself safe if need be. If I could not physically escape from the situation, I would escape in my mine. This is the development of Dissociative Identity Disorder. By the time I was three, I was a pro at disconnecting and dissociating. It became my hardwired default. This is a survival tool, and it obviously worked as it kept me alive.

Some of us have heard stories or known people who, to us were fine people, they may have even been our friend.  Then we come to find they have done something we don’t approve of, or worse, and we say to ourselves- “I don’t believe it, it can’t be”.  We have a hard time wrapping our adult brain, -which has the ability to think in a complex way- around the whole situation. We have a really hard time trying to understand all of this. And that is with a complex adult brain.

Now imagine a child trying to figure this all out.

 A child’s brain that is trying to understand what’s going on, and then when there is no other ways of escape, they escape in their mind. While D.I.D. saved my life, and I have come a long way, there is still some residual affect going on.

This is where self-compassion comes in.

 Lots of exciting things are happening in my life, and yes, the nervous system and brain will remember a time when this same feeling happened, but now it is safe to feel. This is excitement, it’s not terror. There will be times the present and the past bump together, but now a days it’s a much gentler bump, like two stuffed teddy bears falling against each other.  Not like the full on head clashing of the past where I would be disoriented, disconnected, terrified etc. 

And when these gentle bumps do happen, I will accept them with self-compassion, gentleness and support myself in a healthy, compassionate way to help process those bumps.

Wherever you are on your journey, whatever kind of day you are having, I encourage you to give yourself lots of compassion, acknowledge the work you are doing is hard, and remember, even if you don’t believe it now- but it can and will get better <3

Keep up the good work, you ARE AMAZING!!!!

Those are my thoughts for the day 


Friday 21 September 2018

Step by Step version # 2794...

I have mentioned many times in my past posts, about, how living with, and at times struggling with a mental illness, I need to take life, and this journey, step by step, one step at a time. Not only do I need to take it one step at a time, but often, the size of the steps can vary. Sometimes all is going well and I can take long, confident strong strides, other times, I may be struggling and take smaller, and even baby steps. And there have been times, and may in my future, where I need to stop taking any steps at all. This is often a time of processing hard work, or recovering. And then, I start all over again, but I keep moving forward, even if at times it doesn't feel like it. 

This past week, a couple of events have brought the importance of this process of one step at a time into the spotlight. 

Event #1
A few weeks ago, on the long weekend, I went for a hike with  a friend up into the local mountains here. We did the Kwai lake loop. It’s a 14 km hike through alpine meadows, lakes, treed ridge lines, rocky paths, etc. It was lovely, sunny and beautiful as always. And it was so good to be out there amongst the beauty that is nature. It helps soothe the soul. 

All was good till later that night when I was home, and the outside of my left leg was really sore, I could hardly walk on it. This was different then sore muscle pain- I have had plenty of that, but I had no idea what this was. So, to make a long story short, I got it checked out and it’s the iliotibial band- commonly known as the I.T. band, issues. Seems I strained it somehow. The I.T. Iliotibial band (IT bandsyndrome facts. Iliotibial band syndrome is an overuse injury of the connective issues that are located on the outer thigh and knee. The iliotibial band runs along the lateral or outside aspect of the thigh, from the pelvis to the tibia, crossing both the hip and knee joints.   

So, I learned something new, saw the Dr. and am now getting physiotherapy for it. It was frustrating as I had to stop hiking, and going for any walks. I couldn’t work in the garden as that irritated it, and basically couldn’t do much. Well, I could do the stuff, but I would pay for it and it would make it worse and longer to heal. I am happy to say it is getting better and I was able to go for a short walk today. What surprised me was the urge to push myself before I was ready.

Event #2
Last week I was emailing back and forth with someone I know. I had mentioned to him that I think I am finally starting to get on a bit more solid ground after my “Epic Irish Odyssey” and processing a lot of what I learned while on that journey. Things and realizations and discoveries from that trip are still coming and I’m sure it will for the next year or so. But I think I am ready for the next step and that is writing my memoirs, and looking into doing a TED Talk. I mentioned I have no idea how to go about doing either, but I will start looking into it.

Well, the person replied with a lovely offer of hosting me for dinner and inviting an author friend of his so we could chat. Needless to say I was surprised, full of gratitude and hopefully it will work out. He wrote…”It’s a small step, one of many”    

I replied that I like small steps,they  help me not feel so  overwhelmed  and he replied“Step by step works for many of us. Cliff jumping, not so much.” – I almost spit out my tea laughing. Thinking “Aint that the truth!

Then as I do, I started to think of that statement, and the step by step on my healing journey. I started to think back to a time, before I was correctly diagnosed, actually, before I got any help at all. Where instead of the step by step, I was “Cliff Jumping”

I have done a lot of “Cliff Jumping”- metaphorically speaking, in my life. As a very young child I learned how to “Cliff Jump” and could sometimes eject myself out of the house when things became dangerous,- the natural “fight or flight” had saved me, but there was nowhere to safely land. I had nowhere to go but home, and things just repeated. 

I became an expert cliff jumper, to deal with emergencies in the moment, but what I did not learn was the subtle skills or planning out for non-dangerous situations. My brain and nervous system had no idea what that was.

Fast forward 40 years and I was noticing a repeating pattern and knew something had to change but no idea what. I was exhausted, tired of having to pick myself up, crawl back up to what seemed like a functioning level, just to crash again. I asked for professional help.

My professional team and I worked hard to tease out what was going on, and in time I was correctly diagnosed. As much as I wanted to get better, NOW!!!  in this work, there are no short cuts.

So, in time, I leaned that step by step was the way forward, even though the thought of “running like a child who stole a chocolate bar”, crossed my mind many times. This step by step philosophy did not come easy to me. But through hard work, determination, and help from others, progress was being made. In time I noticed I was incorporating this philosophy in other areas of my life.

This last May, I went on my “Epic Irish Odyssey”, my dream trip to fulfill my lifelong dream to go to Ireland. I was there for 10 weeks. The first seven weeks I was on my own, traveling via public transit, then a friend joined me for 3 weeks, and we rented a car and traveled together. It was an amazing experience and I came back a better, stronger and wiser person. Some folks I talked to, both at home, and in Ireland, thought this was amazing. Which, I guess it was, but this was not a “cliff jumping “trip- this trip was planned over 3 years, I saved for 10, and dreamt about it for over 45 years. There were moments it was really tough, was not all smiles and a bed of roses, but it was still amazing. And even during the tough times, I was still able to deal with it by going step by step, and working with my support system that I had put in place before I went. These are some of the advantages of planning step by step and not cliff jumping.

I want to  get serious about my writing, and doing a TED Talk. This is huge, and I know it will be a lot of hard work and at times, just the thought of it becomes overwhelming. My brain and nervous system will want to “Cliff Jump” its way through, but I know it won’t work.  So, when I let someone know this is what I wanted to do, and I received the lovely reply of dinner and a get together to talk about writing etc, I was surprised and full of gratitude. And why his line “Step by step works for many of us. Cliff jumping, not so much.” Cracked me up, it’s like he was in my head!!!

This week, I have had to remind myself many times, why I need to abide by the “Step by Step” philosophy, both for my writing and recovery of my leg. As strong as the urge is to jump forward, I know it will cause more harm than good. I also realize that not allowing my brain and nervous system to act on the old belief that “If we don’t do it now it won’t happen”- Cliff jumping- will take some energy and I need to be gentle with myself, and self-care is in order. I have a limited amount of energy, and cannot compare myself and my writing output and walking, to others. All I can do is the best that I can, keep a balance and go forward step by step.
Those are my thoughts for today. Its now time for me t bundle up and go for a gentle 20 minute stroll to get some fresh air. 

I wish you all well and smooth steps on your healing journey. Below are links to my travel blog I wrote, and continue to write about my journey in Ireland. And a link to a great talk by a father and daughter, on their journey with anorexia. It’s powerful.
PS- I know the type is not aligned, I have no idea why it changed, I guess something else I need to learn...

Sunday 10 June 2018

Life's Adventures Continued....

Life's Adventures Continues...

Yes, it has been more then a few months since I have written a blog. I am still here, I am still learning and life has been full of adventures. And right now..I'm in Ireland

But, before we get to how I came to Ireland, lets back up a few months.

A few months ago , a friend nominated me for the Courage to Comeback Award. This is an award giving out by Coast Mental Health in Vancouver, British Columbia. Canada. These awards are giving to folks who have gone through tough times, and give back to their community.

This event is also the major fundraiser for Coast Mental Health and helps to support their programs they run to help folks who have mental health issues. Its one of the biggest events in Vancouver and is the Biggest fundraising event in Western Canada.

 I was honored that my friend thought that I was worthy of the award, but had no thought that I would win. So, we filled out the application form, sent it off and I just kept doing what I do, not expecting to hear anything.

Now during this time I was also working on my plans for my life long trip to Ireland. I had the tickets booked and I was working on where I was going to go etc. I am traveling solo for the first 7 weeks, via public transit, then a friend is joining me July 1st, and we are going to rent a car for 3 weeks- she is driving!

My departure date was May 12th, at 5;00 am. My flight was originally May 10th, but when I was nominated I figured I should bump it a few days as the awards were May 10th, am I ever glad I did.

Just over 6 weeks before my departure, I had a therapy session and my therapist asked me if I had any more speaking engagements before my trip. I told her I had one, up at the local high school and that I was going to take it easy as I didn't want to be tired for my trip. Well, the saying of " best laid plans of mice and men often go astray" comes to mind....

That night I got a phone call from  the Chair of Coast mental Health Lorne Segal, telling me i had won the award...I was gob smacked and the 1st thing I said was.."No Shit" He also told me things were about to get busy and it would be a roller coaster ride, and he as right.

The next 6 weeks were amazing, exhausting, exhilarating, and a huge learning curve. I was flown over to Vancouver for a newspaper, radio and TV interview. I had my own "personal assistant" for those 6 weeks to help keep me organized and for support and if i had any questions. She was beyond amazing!!! Then a production team came to the island and followed me around for a day, into the class for my presentation etc. They were also going to put together a video of my story that would be presented before I went on stage. My family and a friend were interviewed, and  had to go shop for clothes. had to write a speech, as I was going to read it to 1800 people at a convention center when I got the award. As were the other 4 recipients.

Also during these 6 weeks, I had a couple of emergencies to deal with. The 1st one was I got home from clothes shopping one time and my husband needed to be rushed to the hospital as we thought he was having a heart attack- he is fine, it was a lung infection. The next was when I had booked a whole day off to relax, get a reflexology session and chill for the day. As I arrived at the house of my friend, her house caught fore- they are all safe, but it was a little hairy and I stayed and supported her and her family until her husband could get home later that afternoon.

Needless to say I had to go see my therapist and work through and process these events- especially the fire- man that moves fast. I had flashbacks of that event- but withing a few days- like a normal person, not months or years later . I then realized that during all of these events, as stressed as I was..I never dissociated or lost any time. I had always wondered what would happen if I was faced would an emergency- would I disconnect and loose time. Well, I didn't these times. Sure..I dissociated like any normal person does with an emergency- and deals with the emergency and do what needs to be done, but I didn't loose time or memory- this is HUGE!!!!

There were so many years in my life where this wasn't even a possibility.

Also, during the whole awards stuff, interviews etc...Coast Mental Health staff were amazing with support, asking me what I needed, having that support there, checking in on me in so many ways. They have no idea how much this was appreciated. very often, when folks who have a mental illness or have had trauma are asked to talk, or do a presentation etc, there is no support for them, and this can cause problems. As much as I love speaking and educating, it is emotionally exhausting and i have to make sure my supports are in place and I do lots of self care. Coast mental Health gets that! These folks were amazing. I

I spoke of tough stuff, and I didn't realize how much tension I was holding while waiting for the story to be released until the time came.I can tell my story, but I have no control how others are going to report on it.  When it came out- the 1st I heard was the radio interview, then I saw the print then the TV. It was amazing. My story was told, but it was told with respect, caring, sensitivity, and it was not sensationalized. My story was honored. As my friend wrote to me something like this - "Your story has been honored, the universe has honored you, another step in realizing the world could be safe"

Then it was time to go to Vancouver to receive the award. The  night before the award I met the other recipients and wholly cow- they are all amazing and I often wondered what I was doing there with them. On the big night, my best friend, my son, and 3 other wonderful friends were there to share this gala event with me, and my heart sung knowing they were there with me. And I knew everyone back home were there with me in their hearts and minds.

And remember what I said about support from the organization. My personal assistant came and got me when it was time for me to go up on stage- I was the first speaker.. I was back stage as the video of my story was playing, and she was right there with me, checking in with me etc, it was HUGE. Then it was time to go on stage, receive  my award and give my speech. It is a moment in my life I will cherish, and having folks with e there and at home and afar supporting me was amazing.

I never planned to be doing what I am doing, it just sort of happened, and I don't keep count of what I do, but I must say it was pretty neat to see it on film etc, and what I have actually accomplished was pretty amazing.

It was an amazing and magical night, and 36 hours after giving my speech I was flying off to Ireland for my next grand adventure. I have been here now in Ireland for 4 weeks, and it has had its challenges, which I have written about on my travel blog post which I will put a link below.

And remember that fundraising- over 3 million dollars were raised.

Its now time for me to get something to eat, but thought I should write a post and let folks know what I have been up to. What have a learned about all of this...that sometimes, we have no idea what is going to happen or here life will lead, but by putting one foot in front of the other it will take us where we need to be....

those are my thoughts for the day and below are links to the awards, stories and my travel blog post.

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]]