The Beauty of Stillness

The Beauty of Stillness

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 a fresh blog, and 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 urge that “I had to pick that weed now”- 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 did not 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.

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

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






Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Whisper Knows....

Have you ever thought you had something figured out, or knew how something was going to go, only to find out you were wrong? Well, that has been my past 14 months. 

A year ago September I had taken an Outward Bound Women of Courage course, and as always, there was great growth, discoveries, and realizations.  I came back from that course, worked with my therapist on what had been discovered and realized with regards to my past and trauma. I figured fine, that was good, time to get back to my life. 

This has been the well-known pattern for me when working on my trauma stuff. Well, it seems, life had a different plan for me this time round. 

I had dealt with what I needed to, but things did not seem to be going as planned. It was like something was just not right and I could not put my finger on it. So I thought, “oh well, it must just be me”, and I decided to carry on as usual.  Well that did not go to well. 

Others may not have noticed but it was getting harder and harder for me to keep up with my usual things like ringette, golf, and hiking. It just seemed to take so much out of me. I enjoyed it while I was doing it, but the recovery time-physically and mentally was taking longer and longer. I also noticed the same was happening with regards to socializing, I enjoyed being out with my friends, but once again recovery time and the energy it took to socialize was taking more and more out of me. 

So, I did what I usually did, take a week or two off of any commitments etc., and have some down time. I call this my mental health break. It gives me time to rest, focus on self-care etc., so I can recover and restore and then get back to the things I love. This didn’t work either.

As Robert Burns said “The best laid plans of mice and men go often askew”.

So I fumbled my way through the next few months, but things got harder and harder to do. I was not enjoy much of anything, and felt like I was losing ground. To say I was getting frustrated is an understatement. I had worked too hard to get this far, I was going to keep going, it would sort its self out. 

During all this time, every once in a while there would be this little inkling in the back of my mind, like a very soft whisper floating on the mist, trying to tell me something. But I was not listening, not until hiking in Cape Scott Park. 

My friend and hiking partner Sherry, had asked me earlier in the year if I wanted to backpack  into Cape Scott Park with her, and after some thought I foolishly said yes. Actually it was amazing 3 days,  It was  hard, but we are still laughing and talking about it, and yes we are still friends.  

So, I, my friend and her 14 year old son- brave soul- load up an away we go. It is magical up there. It was hard for me, and I know some people have no problem with it, but they are not me. But we made it, and like any good hiking or backpacking  adventures there was laughter, there was tears, there was swearing and bitching, and moments of absolute awe and wonder. 

And as often happens, growth happens during the difficult times. 

We had hit a difficult part of the trail, I was tired, cranky, had been challenged and I hit my wall-which is usually 6 hours in- and I was ready to throw it all in. I knew I hit my wall, and I also knew if I kept going I would get through it. Of course there was a ton of inner dialogue and one thing I kept telling myself was “at least it’s not as bad as The North Coast Trail”. I had done another Outward Bound course the year before and we had done a section of that trail, it brutal!!  So I carried on, and we made it there and back safely, sore as hell, but safe. This was also my 1st unguided hike, I was the only one with any experience, so I guess you could say, I was the leader. 

A couple of weeks after we got back I had an appointment with my therapist and I told her about the trip, the good, the bad, the amazing. As I’m telling her about the inner dialogue about the trail “not being as bad as the North Coast Trail”, I realized I had yet to say it was hard. I found this interesting and wondered what that was all about. I knew if I was open, gave it space and listened to that little whisper, it would tell me what it was about. And I was right.

I have come a long way since the beginning of therapy. I have worked hard at it for years. People ask me why I am “still doing this and why is it taking me so long?” fair question. 

Without going into too much detail, I tell them that for the first 20 years of my life I experienced such horrific abuse, trauma, lived in an environment that was so dangerous and harmful that I learned at a very early age to dissociate to help survive.  This abuse and absolute abject poverty and neglect started so young in my life that by the age of 3, I learned that there was no use crying when in pain, because my caregivers were not able to care for me, or do anything about it. Besides, my caregivers were often the one causing the pain or neglecting me, and my siblings. 

None of us 9 kids came out of that family undamaged. 

 If someone who was in the, military, did a tour overseas and saw war, battles, where their very life was in danger and they thought they may die, would you begrudge them help for their PTSD, depression, anxiety etc., no matter how long it took to get better? Of course not, they should get as much help as they need for however long it takes. 

 I have had so very many tours of duty in my own war zone, and there was no R&R, no one looking out for me, and my siblings, there was nowhere to go, no backups, and those in command each had their own undiagnosed mental illness. There was no support and it still amazes me we that we all survived. 

We all had/have our own coping mechanisms, mine was dissociation. 

Now, because of very hard work and the amazing professionals who have, and continue to hold space for me and help guide me, my amazing husband and son- who have been on a huge learning curve- and friends and teammates who support and love me for who I am, I no longer dissociate on a daily basis, and in fact rarely dissociate at all, even when I am under pressure or feel stressed. I have never been so mentally healthy in my life, and life is better than it has ever been.

 If you think about it, this IS pretty amazing. 

So, back to therapy and trying to figure out why I had to keep saying the trail was not as bad as the North Coast Trail. 

If I have not mentioned it before- my trauma therapy is like peeling an onion. You start on the outside and work your way in, and like an onion, every level will most likely make you cry, and the closer you get to the core or root of the onion, the more potent the onion becomes.

So, I am working, thinking and wondering what the issues are around the trail and not being able to admit how hard it was. I thought “maybe it’s because I feel like a failure if I admit I struggled?” but that did not seem to fit. 

So for the next week I spent a lot of time on my own, went for solitary walks, had a lot of quiet time, sat in the garden, read, and purposely took it easy. I mean that I was not busy with other activities, socializing etc. Working through trauma is anything but ‘taking it easy” as it takes so much energy and can be exhausting. In time, as I was being mindful of what I was doing, and spending quiet time on my own, I begun to hear this very quiet, light whisper. It would not last for long, was not loud, but it was there. 

When I talk about this whisper, I mean my intuition, my inner knowledgeable voice. And this is what it told me. “You can’t admit that the trail was hard, because it’s a defence. A defence to help you avoid the realities of the times in your past when it was not safe to admit when something was hard.”

 Here is another of the layer of the onion.

So, I go back to therapy and we explore this onion, this protective layer and what it is protecting. As we gentle and slowly peel it away, the realization comes to me. Growing up, I was always put down if I ever voiced a concern about anything. I would be told. “What makes you think you’re so special”  “Who the fuck do you think you are”? And the all-round favorite...” If you’re going to cry I will give you something to cry about” etc.

I’m thinking, “I already know this, have talked about this before, this is not new”. I am left wondering what this is all about. For the next week or two, I once again have solitary quiet time, sit and listen, and once again, the whisper speaks to me. 

I need to do the work around my mother, and her omission in my childhood. If you google omission you will find the following. 

a failure to do something, especially something that one has a moral or legal obligation to do.
Synonyms: negligence, neglect, neglectfulness, dereliction, forgetfulness, oversight, default, lapse, failure.

I have worked on tons of stuff around violence/abuse of pretty much every kind and how it affected my life.  But now I need to work on the quieter acts of omission on mom’s part. This is hard, but it needs to be done.

 This is also hard for society to deal with. I have had many people say to me, ‘well, your mom was in an abusive relationship, and probably thought her life was in danger” etc., Yes, this is true, and I understand that this is them trying to digest and figure this out. I did the exact same thing for years, telling myself “she did the best she could with what she had at the time.” etc. 

But, the reality is, she didn’t and I have to deal with that.

 I have to deal with the fact that she chose not to leave, even when she had opportunities, I have to deal with the fact that her omission and lack of parental instinct was so damaged that she was very rarely there for us kids. I understand the fear she must have had about what would happen if she did leave dad, I understand she had very little control over him and what he did to us, but I am now trying to understand how, she was never there with a hug, or time,or help, or connection of any kind. I am just in the process of working on this, so it’s hard for me to explain.

I also want to make clear this is NOT about blaming mom. This work is about holding up to the light, the reality, look at, and acknowledge what was not there, never was, and the little kid that kept hoping it would be there, because to face reality of it not being there would have been too much.  This is about compassion, giving mom compassion while making her accountable for her lack of action on so, so, so many levels. 

This is about understanding on a much deeper level on my part, and in the process grieving the fact that by the time I was  3 years old, I no longer cried or looked for help when hurt or upset. I had learned, if I cried or needed help, it would not arrive. My little brain had learned that I could not face the reality of it all, and would dissociate, or tell myself that things could be worse. Just like in Cape Scott, “at least it was not the North Coast Trail” I could not admit that the trail in Cape Scott was hard because if I did it would trigger me back to that time, and that realization. 

I have a lot of work ahead of me. Not everyone does this stage of their work, and that’s fine, I respect that, but I need to do this work. I am going to need a lot of quiet, solitary time and be very careful to not get “to busy” which is  a great way to avoid those pesky things called emotions. It’s amazing how those old ways of coping still show up. 

Yes, this is very hard, and painful work, but each time I work through something I get a piece of me back, and it frees up energy for me to do other things.

Last month, I was at The Child and Youth mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative in Vancouver. I was 1 of 12 parents and youth speaking at the opening plenary, to over 600 service providers, about connection. It was amazing, I rocked it, as did everyone on that stage, and since I have come back, been doing my work, my advocacy voice has become so much stronger and sure!  

Because I listened to the whisper, I am stronger. 

Those are my thoughts for today, I hope you find a place and time where you can hear your whisper. It, like you, is sacred, it is worth hearing. 

Cheers and be well


Suzy 

Thursday, 19 May 2016

CHOCOLATE....Now That I have your attention...



It has been a while since my last blog post, actually about 9 weeks, my how the time flies. It, as always, has been an interesting time, some struggles, some good time, so not so good times, but I am grateful for every day.

As I write this a laugh to myself, because I remember the times that were really bad, and time did anything but fly. Times where I was struggling and it took everything in me to put one foot in front of the other. Times where thinking about making it through “the day” was too overwhelming. I had to break the day down into 15 minute increments, telling myself I could make it through the next 15 minutes, then repeat that thought throughout the time it took to get better. As it got better it was 1 hour increments, then the morning, afternoon, evening night, etc.

Why do I think of this now?

Because, in the last 8 weeks, I have given 5 presentations to youth, talked to a residency Dr. about Dissociative Identity Disorder and been interviewed on a radio show about living with this disorder, and the stigma around mental health. http://bbsradio.com/podcast/quyns-empowerment-hour-april-30-2016   And as I said in the radio interview, I never ever thought I would be where I am now, and doing what I do, and doing it successfully.

Also during this time, I have been working on balance, what fuels me, what depletes me. It has been an interesting journey.  This will be a lifelong journey, and I’m fine with that. Life is not stagnant, it’s an ever flowing journey and we are along for the tide. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes is crappy, and sometimes it’s friggin fantastic.

Each time I give a presentation, one of the 1st things I do is give everyone in the audience 2 pieces of chocolate,everyone always smiles when I give this to them. Later in the talk I tell them…”This morning when you got up, none of you knew you were going to get chocolate when you came to this class/workshop, you had no idea, and by the looks of it, you were all happy about it. Life is like that, we never know what is around the corner for us, so when you get in those tough time, those dark time, remember the chocolate, remember you don’t know what is around the corner for you- hang on for those chocolate moments, because they will come.

I’m glad I hung on to discover what was around my corner.

Those are my thoughts for today, may you be safe in your journey- and discover chocolate.
Suzy


PS-please feel free to share the radio interview- as well as these blogs- we never know who they may help

Friday, 11 March 2016

Recovery is like the arrival of Spring…

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

Thursday, 7 January 2016

A Year of Restoration...

The New Year has come and gone and I have no idea what the coming year will bring.
This last year has been amazing, heart breaking, exhilarating, frustrating, confusing, and beautiful and challenging.  It’s had its highs and lows, but the one theme that has been throughout is growth, and the things that comes with growth, is change.

I feel like I have spent the last year on a home restoration on myself.

Years ago when I first started therapy, I remember writing in my journal that my work would be like rebuilding my foundation. I had just been diagnosed with Complex P.T.S.D. and my world had fallen apart. I could no longer work, we had lost our house, our credit and my husband small pension was $50 a month more than if we were on social assistance. We were using the food bank, and had to make choices between buying bread or milk. We had managed to rent an old small house, -that my sons friend called “The Hobbit House”- The floor in the bathroom would sag as you walked on it, it had an old  oil stove for cooking, and heat-which only heated up the tiny kitchen.  

Some of the floor board were rotting out and in the spring you could hear a frog singing his song under the floor in the corner of my bed room floor. There was no basement, just a small foundation above the dirt.

As I started doing my work I realized all my beliefs that I was bad, no good, and worthless, a piece of shit etc. came from what I was told growing up, and I believed it. With the help of my psychiatrist I was learning otherwise and I realized I needed to work on changing those beliefs, create new ways of thinking, challenge and get rid of those “old tapes” that would play in my head. I thought of it as building a new foundation, and this visual helped me.

Before rebuilding a foundation you need to make sure the building is supported. Sometimes this means lifting the house up to assess the damages. The damage of my foundation- belief in myself, cognitive errors etc., was so bad, it required to lift the whole house up, and be supported while I worked on the foundation.

It was a lot of work, the whole thing had to be dismantled, carefully- rubble taken away, the ground leveled out and prepared for a new foundation.

It was a lot of work, blood, sweat and tears, but I am happy to say it was all worth it, and I have a very solid, and healthy foundation. And the house now sits firmly and solidly on that foundation
.
So, what’s the issue you might ask? Well, I was asking myself this very same question this past year.

Life would seem to be plugging along, but something was just not right. I could not write my blogs like I wanted too, things seemed to take so much energy, it was hard for me to read, and then there was the huge mental health challenge last year when I could not get into the hospital. I sent out a request for help from friends and they came running and could not do enough for me. When the crisis was over, I thought I would just bounce back up and get on with life. I did on many levels, but quietly in the background, things were still being worked on and sorted out.

I went on two amazing Outward Bound Canada, Women of Courage courses, http://www.outwardbound.ca/course_index.asp?Category=111

One on the North Coast Trail, and the other in the Selkirk Mountains at the Bobby Burns Lodge. It was amazing and challenging times that allowed me to dig deeper and discover and retrieve more of my lost self. But I was exhausted long after the trips were over. I realized it was more mental than physical.

I gave 7 presentation to High school students, and 3 presentations to teachers and educators in two different school districts about Connecting with Students with Mental Health Challenges.
 I volunteered with the installation and de installation of the Walking with Our Sisters Memorial, it was an intense and amazing experience

My last year has been full and amazing, but also challenging. This past week a thought came to me….”This last year you have been doing a house restoration on yourself. ”

Restoring a house is different than renovating a house. Restoration, means to take back to its original self.
 According to Merriam Webster restoration is The act or process of returning something to its original condition by repairing it, cleaning it etc.
: The act of bringing back something that existed before
: The act of returning something that was stolen or taken.

I think I have been spending the last year doing all of the above.

This past year, while my house was sitting safely and securely on is great foundation, I have been working away till the wee hours of the night restoring myself back to my original condition, repairing, cleaning etc.  

Think of an old 150-200 year old house. It has been raised and then set back down on new foundations, the outside work and restoration has been done, and now, it’s time to restore the inside. 
This is a lot of work and I have not done it alone. 

Think about the work it takes to remove decades of old paint, leaded paint without harming the original finish, taking up old carpets and sanding and restoring the amazing old growth wood flooring. Pulling down the brick  to find the original flagstone fireplace. Discovering the original old beams and stained glass windows, and the original curved doorways. Many people have helped me to do this in the past year. To work delicately to find the original door handles, rot iron railings, carved wood and designs under all the decades of paint, wallpaper and plaster. Times when I was frustrated and wanted to hurry it up- they reassured me that it takes time and a gentle hand.

There have also been times when I have to use force and be as strong as I can, ask for help and together we broke through false walls, and discovered boarded up rooms, where nothing had changed in 50 years. These rooms were covered in dust, stagnant and where just waiting for the light to break in, and when it did, we found amazing treasures.

Restoring a house takes time and energy, it’s an ongoing work of love,but it's worth it. 
So am I. So are YOU!!!

 I will have moments when I need to take time to focus on some new issue, wax the hardwood floors, polish the wood and metal and all round general upkeep. I will not have the time and energy of others who live in a modern house with little upkeep, but that’s ok. Because, what I have discovered, retrieved and found, is my authentic self. Like the restored old house, it’s full of beauty, warmth and has an authenticity that is hard to find, but once found will enrich your life beyond belief.

I don’t know what this New Year will bring, but I am open to whatever comes my way. There will be good times, there will be bad times, times of discovery and dreams, times of grief and sadness. But the one thing I do know, is that I am safe in myself, and my home.

And when spring comes and the frogs start singing again, I will once more be reminded of how far I have come.

Those are my thoughts for today, I wish you all wellness and safety in your journeys.

Cheers and be well


Suzy

Friday, 28 August 2015

Welcome Home...

Welcome Home...


Well, I am home, and I not only survived my last Outward Bound trip, I thrived. I was going to say the thriving was not noticeable until I got home and recovered, but that’s not true.

Outward Bound is about discoveries, adventure, challenges and digging down deep. It’s about finding out who you really are and being delighted in what you find. 

To say it was an “interesting adventure” would be an understatement. I met some amazing women, had some amazing growth and spent an entire week Ghost Busting and laying old beliefs to rest. Like the surroundings, The North Coast Trail, on the northern tip of Vancouver Island, it was wild, it was hard, at times brutal, and it was beautiful beyond words.

As usual, with every Outward Bound trip, I was nervous, and had not really slept well for the few nights before the trip. I kept waking up at 3:00 am wondering what the Hell I had gotten myself into. There were moments I actually thought of pulling out. Telling myself I would be more comfortable staying at home- true fact- I would get more sleep at home,-another true fact- but somewhere inside my intuition told me, this was going to be a moment of amazing growth, and I needed to do this trip to move forward. As it turned out- this, also, was a true fact!

The groups start and departure point was the Scout Camp, Camp Gilwell, right here in the Comox valley,  and I’m thinking “oh boy!” This was an area a friend, who also had Dissociative Identity Disorder, and I, would go to sit on the river’s edge and chat, look for fossils, cry and just try to find something to hang on to keep us going for another day. Sadly, she is no longer with us. So I knew right off that bat that the universe was going to challenge me, I just had no idea how much.

The group of us get together, chat for a bit, and find out we are going on The North Coast Trail. I’m thinking “Yes!” Then “Wholly Shit!” I have heard about this trail!!!”We then make our last phone calls, e-mails, texts etc. to let family and friends know we have safely arrived, put the phones and electronic devices away for a week and our adventure begins.  We sort out what gear is needed, instructions on how to dress in layers, receive lovely little journals to write in, then have a circle and chat for a bit, then have a few moments of quiet time down by the river, the very same path and spot on the river my friend and I had taken countless times many years ago.

After we get together we once again, chat about the course, why we are here, what we want to get out of it and just start to get to know each other. We make plans for an early departure, and hit the sack. After a night of only a few hours’ sleep, we are up, pack our packs and load the truck up, hop into the van and on our way, we have a luxury coffee stop in Courtenay to grab coffees to go, and we are on our way up to Pt. Hardy, a 3-4 hour drive, where we will get a 1 and ½ hour water taxi ride to our start destination Cape Sutil. 

The water taxi ride was amazing, the sea was calm, we saw Sea otters, deer on a beach and the scenery was rugged and spectacular. I, and as I found out later others, naively thought we would just have to jump off the front of the boat into a couple of feet of water and walk to the beach. NOT!!! 

We had to get to the drop off point at high tide, and the boat nosed its way up against a steep rock, about 10 feet or so high, - it felt like 20 to me- we had to get off the front of the boat and scale up the rock. Ok, panic moment #3 so far. I won’t write down what I was thinking, but I could not watch the others get off the boat, with packs and make their way up, my panic was so bad I had to focus on breathing and I kept looking out to the ocean. I must have had this look of terror on my face as even the boat captain said “you will be alright.” One of the instructors came over and checked in with me and told me I was doing the right thing and that she would carry my pack up for me. I felt my old coping system kicking in, the old, numbing/dissociating  myself from the moment, or the submit and collapse-“we can’t do that” 

My time came and I didn’t climb up the rock, I crawled on all fours, thinking, “shit”- (used a different word) it’s just started and I’m screwed” –(once again used a different word!) It was very emotional for me, but with the help and support I made it.

We all (including the 2 dozen fresh eggs) – safely got up the rock, along the edge and down to the beach. Once my legs and arms stopped trembling I looked around and the scenery was stunning, hard packed sandy beach, thick forest, amazing rock outcroppings, deep sea foam green water, and mosquitoes.

We move ourselves and gear down the beach, unpack the food packs and have lunch. I’m thinking “I could spend the whole week at this spot” but I knew that’s not what I was there for. It was a lovely day, a slight breeze was coming off the water that made it cool, but not cold. It was amazingly beautiful, I could look out the ocean for miles, and somewhere there was a fog horn sending its low drone across the waters. I felt better once I had something to eat, and after we learned how to set up the tents, and broke off into groups to set them up.

 We then went and got water from a stream further down the beach, treated that, learned how to pack our backpacks correctly, how to work the stoves, and then had some time to ourselves.  Later that afternoon I noticed myself wishing I was somewhere else. I found this interesting as it was beautiful, and I would have gladly stayed there all week. I didn’t push the feelings away, or discredit what I was feeling, instead I was curious and wondered where this was coming from. I walked along the hard packed sand, amazed at the patterns that the water and tide left behind. Chatted with some of the ladies on the course and then it was dinner time.

After dinner and clean up, we had a circle. We had many circles throughout the week, to check in and find out what was going to be happening etc.  One of the instructors asked us to check in with ourselves and our thoughts for the next day on the trail in one or two words. Mine was FEAR. It was then that I realized why I had been feeling like I had earlier. I was on a beach, all be it beautiful, on the very northern tip of Vancouver Island. My fight/flight old coping style kicked in and I had nowhere to go. I didn’t want to become numb and “check out” so I was sitting with the uncomfortable. And it was uncomfortable and scary, freighting and very emotional and then I came to realize what this was all about. I told the group that I grew up on the Island, so I was “taking back my back yard” and I was terrified because I knew that I would be confronting lots of old ghosts, memories, challenging old belief systems and I knew I would have lots of flashbacks.  With teary eyes,  I know I needed to do it to move forward. I also know once I get to the other side, it won’t be as scary as I think it will be. I told them the next day would be frightening and challenging, it was then that one of the instructors reminded me that “you don’t need to do it on your own, you can ask for help and support.” That was good to hear, and I also knew that would be a challenge on its own.

That night in the never ending twilight, I did some journaling. I had copied a message my best friend sent me before I left.  “Have a wonderful time, I know you are going to exorcise some horrible memories, hope you have fun and remember to find beauty in each day. I admire your sense of adventure.”  I then laid down, thought about the day and what was coming, and listened to the Fog horn and the ocean as the tide rose. I had a million dollar ocean view through my tent door, and after many hours I finally got a few hours’ sleep.

I woke early the next morning with a headache, got dressed and walked down to the water. I was the 1st one up and love that time in the morning before the world wakes up.  The water was calm, sky a little overcast with small patches of blue breaking through, and that amazing view. The bugs were out- as they are early morning so I covered my head, as I sat on a rock and did some journaling. It was going to be an interesting day, starting with myself and one of the ladies making breakfast.

In time we get breakfast, pack up, get ready and once again we have a circle before we head off to the trail. I pull out my abalone shell and sage from home, do a smudge and invite anyone to do it if they want. They do, and this becomes our ritual each day before heading on to the trail.  As we put the packs on, I wonder what lies ahead.  I could not imagine in my wildest dream what was ahead of us.

We walk along the beach and I silently say good bye and thank it for taking care of us, we climb over a few logs, some more graceful then others,-I'm the Not so graceful one-  and we start up the trail. I’m thinking, this is good, I can do this and we are on our way. The trail was great for about the 1st hour and then it becomes a grind, and then it becomes an even more grind….it was a beautiful grind, but a grind all the same.

That day was a challenge in more ways than one. I confronted old ghosts, flashbacks and old beliefs every step of the way. The way the afternoon light came through the trees, smell of the forest, sponginess of the ground, the moss on the trees, and me being the turtle of the group.  I also saw a forest full of more shades of green then I had ever seen, trees that were so old I thought “ If only you could talk, the stories you could tell us.” As we make our way up through he gruelling trail I ask myself – as I do on every Outward Bound course I have taken, “why the Hell did  you sign up for this? “

 We came out of the forest and onto the beach, not a nice sandy beach, a beach full off boulders the size of dinner plates, thousands of them, and at some parts they must have been 30 feet deep. I was thinking of the force of Mother Nature and her strength and the tons these things must weigh. And the view was amazing, no matter where you looked on this whole trip, the views were amazing. One of the ladies found a “mermaid sack”- which is egg cases of Skates, I had never seen one, and then they found another one even bigger.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egg_case_(Chondrichthyes)

As the day went on we were in and out of the forest, along the beach, back up into the forest. On one of the beaches, on the boulders I rolled out on my ankle, twisted it and my knee- just to put a bit more challenge in it.  I was ok, I felt like a fool, and we carried on. There were area where we had to climb up a dirt cliff side by using tree roots and pulling ourselves up by a thick rope that was there, and then having to scale down the other side the same way. It was during these times that I took up the offer of having someone “Sherpa” my pack up and down for me. Being the turtle of the pack really sucked, but the group- every one of them were amazing, offering help and support along the way. I must admit it did take me some time to actually accept it graciously, and in time ask for help.

As we made our way along the trail and eventually came to a beach where we were going to set up camp. It had been a hard and gruelling day but in no time, with everyone working together the camp was set up. We had dinner, cleaned up and some of us went for a walk. The sun slowly made its way down and the orange and reds in the sky was beyond beautiful, I think breath taking is the better word. It had been a hard day, and I was more than happy to hit the hay- mind you hay would have been softer- Once again as I laid in my sleeping bag, as tired as I was I could not sleep. I was thinking about the past day, the ups and downs, literally as well as figuratively, and I thought about all the times people in the group had offered their help and hand to help me up and over physical as well as psychological barriers. It was then, with sadness, that I realized this is what should have happened to me when I was a kid.

 It was once again a long time before I fell asleep, but it was amazing to listen to fog horn and the waves as they crept up along the shore to high tide.

The next morning I am once again the 1st one up. The tide was out, exposing giant rocks, with strands of green and brown kelp hanging down the sides. Some of these rocks were at least 8 feet higher than me. One spot there was water half way up the rock, and the contrast with the  blue water and  green and brown kelp was amazing. I took a picture of it and would not have been surprised if some mermaids had surfaced. 

That morning we start off, with taped ankle so I don’t roll out on it again- and the 1st thing we encounter as we come off the beach onto the trail, is another rope assisted climb up a steep embankment. I swore to myself. .”You have got to be f…ing kidding”- I said this many times to myself and out loud throughout the week. As my pulsed raced, I could feel it in my ears I thought- “nope- we have to try this.” And with deep breaths and shaking legs I made it up, and down the other side on my own with my pack on. This was huge for me, and the hoots and hollers of congratulations from the group was something else. As the day and hike went there were more challenges, more offer and asking for help, more flashbacks and more amazing scenery. We saw Sea Otters, Porpoises and   an Orca and her calf- well the rest of the group saw it, as I had just turned my back to the ocean- I did see the Dorsal fin as it went down-we climbed up/over and under logs, Up and around huge rocks on the beach, walked on rocky gravely beaches and pretty much everything in between.

We came to another amazing enchanted beach, with magical rock formations an amazingly clear water. This was where we were going to camp for the night. Once camp was set up I sat on a log and promptly, momentarily fell asleep. I was sore and exhausted, but could not believe the beauty that surrounded me. Once again everyone worked together as a team, dinner was made, water was collected, we explored the magical rock formations and a fire was made. It was lovely to sit around that fire as a group, talk about the day and look around at the vast wild beauty. I told the group that I knew growth would happen to me on this trip, I just did not realize so much would happen in such a short time.  Above us, on a cliff was an eagle’s nest and the pair welcomed us with the song. It was the wild North Coast of the island and it was beautiful.

I went to bed that night and soon after I got some much needed sleep. I did hear the tide come up once again in the wee hours of the morning, but did manage to get back to sleep. The next morning as I was waking up I had this huge realization of the enormity of the abuse, neglect and terror I experienced in the first 20 years of my life. This may sound like a bad thing, but it was not. Not, until that moment, could I see it as a whole, it had always been fragments of this, flashbacks of that etc. There was so much of it for so many years, never just one or two things, it was a constant. But that morning, I could, for the 1st time, see it as a whole, instead of those fractured bits of me. It’s hard to explain, but this was a huge psychological shift, like an integration of my psyche. I knew an enormous step in my healing to be the best that I could be, just happened.


  Once again, I am up early, and even though I am tired and sore, I feel a lightness about me that I had never experienced before. I get dressed, crawl out of my tent and notice that the tide is out, and the scenery was even more spectacular. With the low tide, rocks, sand, barnacles, sea urchins and other varied sea life was exposed. The rocks were once again higher than me, and it was a surreal feeling when I realized these rocks are under water most of the time, and I was walking on the bottom of the ocean.

Everyone slowly wakes up, breakfast is made, camp is packed up and it is another day of adventures, more rope assisted climbs and descents, more walking through and on top of amazing rock formations, and more surprises as we see beauty all around us. This was going to be a long day as we need to get to Shuttleworth Bay, as that was going to be our pick up point with the water taxi the next day. . On this day I was able to ask for help when I need it, be it holding my hand and helping me up a big step, or a shoulder to lean on as I crossed over the logs with my pack on, or asking someone to carry my pack across a single log bridge, I also noticed I was more comfortable walking on and over things, a bit better balance and somehow I felt stronger.

 This was also the day I hit “The Wall” “My Wall”

 We were walking along rocky beach, rocks moving out from under our feet all the time and it seemed to go forever. This is when I hit the point where I wanted to tell everyone where to go- not that they were doing anything wrong, but it’s just how I was feeling- I wanted to throw my pack and walking poles into the ocean and sit down and not move anymore, and have a huge hissy fit. One of instructors saw this, she came up along beside me and talked to me while we walked. I then start to have tears streaming down my face, but this does not phase her one bit. With her support she talks to me and allows me to feel what I am feeling, and with that, I am able to process my emotions, and like a wave, they dissipate.

 We come around a bend and are pleasantly surprised to see Shuttleworth Bay. We were there sooner then we thought it would be, it was not going to be a long and grueling day.  The tide was going out and the last hour of hiking was on hard packed, level sand, and once again the scenery was amazing. It was pure bliss.

This was where we were are going to do our solo component of the course.  The solo is a time of quiet reflection, Instructions are given, tarps and tents are set up,( you could choose if you wanted to solo in a tent or under a tarp),  and we are sent on our way, not that we went far. Being on the bay, we could see each other, but we were not to talk to each other. It was like a silent retreat, to reflect on the past few days on the trail and whatever else came up.

 We were allowed to have small fires, so I went and, with great difficulty, I got a small fire going. I burned some sage and dried cedar that I brought, looked into the fire and thought about not only the past days with this group, but my life, where I had been, where I was then, and what I wanted to do in the future. It was a calm night and once again twilight lingered around until about 11:30.  A gentle breeze was coming off the ocean and when I was ready I pulled out a handful of stones I had brought with me.

 I had picked these stones  up off the side of the road that I lived when I was younger, from when I  was 13 to 20 years old. I thought I would leave these rocks somewhere on the trail, as a symbolic gesture of leaving the past behind. I was so busy I had not thought about them much, but now seemed the perfect time. With contemplation and tears I threw them, one at a time into the hot coals of the burning fire. I was thinking of that little kid that was me, that had horrific things happen to her, and how it never seemed to stop. The violence, abuse, poverty and neglect that went on until I left home. I thought about the fact that even when I did leave home, what happened to me would haunt me and affected me for decades to come, and I thought about  how it had affected the ones I loved. 

 I thought about the healing journey I had been on and the amazing people, including Outward Bound Women Of Courage, who have helped me on my healing path. I thought about the times I felt I could not go on, the struggles and the pain. I felt profound gratitude to be where I was at that very moment.
I thought about this amazing, courageous, smart, funny, caring group of women I had traveled with on the trail. The laughs, the cries, the amazing gift of support, love and friendship they had given me, all while being on their own internal journey and challenges on the trail. I thought about the many discoveries each and every one of us found, be it internally or externally, and I knew this growth would continue once we got home. 

I thought about the multiple eco systems we hiked through, the beauty in unexpected places, pale wild roses growing like an arbour at one of our trail entrances from the beach, rolling waves of the wild West Coast, multiple shells and sea creatures, the eagles that gifted us with one of their feathers, breath taking views and the ever-changing forest we walked through.

 I thought about the amazing instructors, the support and wisdom each one of them had, and how they knew just when to step in, and when to back away, and allow each and every one of us to discover that there was more in us then we realized. It had been an amazing time on the trail, it had been hard. I remembered on 2 of the days I forlornly watched two coast guard ships go past on the horizon and fantasised about them coming to pick us up at that moment- they didn’t the shit heads! I’m glad they didn’t. I had changed, and grown so much on that trail, with these wonderful women, on this Wild Coast and I would be forever grateful. There was a part of me that sad that it was going to be leaving the trail the next day, but my knees were pretty happy.  

With one last smudge, I sent thanks out to the universe, asked it to protect everyone that night. I poured water on the fire and crawled into my tent. I left the tent door open, with screen in place, Once again it was a million dollar view. The tide was coming in, inching its way up the long sandy beach, and intermittent clouds would allow the crescent moon to look down upon us.

I did not sleep well, I had nightmares like ones I had in the past, but this time round when I woke from them, there was no fear attached to them, it was like they had lost their power over me. I found that fascinating. It had rained during the night, the first rain of the trip. As I child I had been cold, wet and hungry, so having it rain while I was camping was also a trigger. But this time I was able to roll over and go back to sleep. I also thought this was fascinating, yep, something had definitely shifted.

Once again I am up early the next morning, I get dressed and walk down to the water’s edge bring my sage and abalone shell with me.  It is beautiful, I look out to the ocean and all I see is never ending ocean. I Place the sage in the shell, light it and hold the shell with both hands. While looking down I then smudge myself and silently stand there with closed eyes, breathing deep, full of gratitude for this wonderful gift and feeling the slight breeze on my face and hands. When I am ready I look up across the ocean and I the distant I see the water spout of a Grey Whale and the top of his/her back as they go back under. It was amazing, and even more so when more whales do the same thing. I stood there and watched for what seems like forever, what an amazing experience and gift.  On my way back up to my tent I notice that in the night the tide had come up and washed away the debris from the fire the previous evening, stones and all.

The instructors brought us breakfast and coffee, and a few hours later we once more come get back together after our solos. I was exhausted and elated at the same time. We talked as a group how the solo was for each of us, there were varied emotions and thoughts. Fear, anxiety, anger, excitement, trepidation, longing for it last longer. But one thing we all felt, was the felling that we had accomplished something extraordinary, on the trail and the solo. This was not a cake walk, or an easy stroll down the street. This was hard work that we did as a group, and could only be accomplished by working as a group. We had gained bragging rights!!!

Soon it was time to pack up, and get ready to be picked up by water taxi. We put our packs on and walked a short along the beach distance to the rendezvous point. We once again sat in a circle and the instructors laid out a deck of cards with various pictures on them. They asked us to pick a card or two that spoke to us. I picked 2 cards. One with a drawing of lightning and storm clouds, the other of a sunrise. I explained there were many dark times and storms for me on this trail, as there was in my life. But I now felt that many shifts had happened, and I could feel a new world opening up for me. I had no idea what it would be, but I knew it was coming. Once again, I told them I knew growth would happen for me, I just didn’t realize so much would happen in such a short time, and their support, encouragement and this safe environment had allowed that to happen. This was an incredible gift and would be with me always.

We start to gather up our things and as the water taxi is seen on the horizon, we have one last group smudge. This time the 2 instructors hold the sage and feather and smudge each one of individually. Emotions ran through and over me, I tried to hold them back but I knew I was safe and let them go. It had been an amazing time, it was beyond hard emotionally and physically. I had flashbacks and horrid memories come flying at me with pretty much every step I took. Old beliefs tried to make their way to my conscious when I struggled, and, some of them did make it. It took enormous focus and energy to not only watch every step I took on the trail, but also to stay in the moment and not dissociate. It was time to let all this go, and like the stones washed away in the night, let these emotions I was feeling to wash over me and leave them here on the Wild North Coast Trail.

As the water Taxi came to the pickup point, we all pick our packs up and I notice the smiles, and I swear everyone is standing a little straighter and a little taller.

It’s a lovely 2 hour boat ride back to Pt. Hardy, and as we get closer to the home port, we come into rain. The support team was there to greet us with smiles and drive us to a campsite that we are staying at that night. Soon after arrival the rain just starts coming down in buckets. We set up the tents and start dinner, I will never forget the picture of Arden, standing by the stoves cooking, as the rain is pouring off the hood of her coat, and she is still smiling. The owners of the campsite have a very large, 3 sided wood shed, with a wood stove in the middle. It has a sink with running hot and cold water, counters, lights, and chairs to sit on. He invites us in we sit in comfort as we get to know him and his wife and other people who are camping there. We have hot drinks and I am initiated into the “Tim Tam Slam” club.

You get a cookie called a Tim Tam- they are from new Zealand- these rectangle cookies are rich, covered with chocolate, and have a soft chocolaty center. You have your hot drink-mine was hot chocolate- you take a small bite off of one corner, take another small bite off the opposing corner, put the cookie part way in your hot drink and suck on it like a straw. In a very short time the hot liquid is drawn up through the cookie and just as you get the hot liquid to your mouth -you will fell the cookie start to get soft- you throw the whole thing in your mouth and it melts all at once. It is an experience!!!

I am the first one to turn in that night, it is still light out as I crawl into my sleeping bag as the rain is pouring down. I sleep like a log, I slept so sound I did not even hear my tent mate come in.
The next morning the owner of the campground gets up and makes us all the most amazing, fluffy pancakes I have ever had. We tidy up, pack up camp and are on our way back to Camp Gilwell.

 Upon arrival we are met by more smiling support staff and congratulated on our accomplishment. We unload and start sorting and cleaning all the gear and have a much needed, and sought after shower. The support staff make us an amazing dinner, and we are served at the decorated picnic tables. We felt like royalty. The dinner was amazing, plentiful  and I looked around the table at all the smiling women. We had started out as strangers, but we became more than a community, we became a family. We supported and helped each other, when someone was having a bad day, we each stepped it up and helped a little more. We learned to trust one another and learned that it was safe to be ourselves. These women, who were strangers, I am proud to say are now my friends. They are all beautiful, inside and out, intelligent, creative, and powerful. They have an amazing sense of humor and are courageous beyond words.

Later that evening we have our “Pin ceremony” Each one of us receives an Outward Bound Canada pin. The only way you can receive this pin is by completing one of their courses. 

Amongst the tall pines and cedars, we sat in a circle by the river and had our Pin ceremony. Before you get your pin, each person holds it and “chargers” it, sending good thoughts and vibes, and if they wish too, say a few words about the person it is going too. It is just one more magical moment of the trip. It was amazing to hear what people said about each other, and there was a recurring theme, strength, wisdom, resilience, inspiration, compassion, and thoughtfulness. There was laughter, there was tears and there was deep felt gratitude for everyone on that trip and all we had been through. We had connected as  many of us had never connected before. We all grew in ways that surprised and delighted us, and I think we all realized we are all beautiful just the way we were.

Soon it was time for bed, and I lay awake for many hours. Thinking about the past week, the wolf and bear scat we found, owl pellets, and wolf prints in the sand. The amazing green colors of the forest, and the surreal feeling of walking on the sand while Muscles and Gooseneck Barnacles hang from the rock formations 10 feet above you. The amazing array of logs 20 feet thick that Mother Nature had thrown up on th beach that we had to walk across to get to and from the beaches, the sunsets and sun rises, various types of moss hanging from tress and the amphibian egg sacks we found in a pond on our 1st day on the trail. The views that looked like something from a National Geographic special. I thought about the tears frustration, exhaustion, laughter and deep down belly laughs we all experienced. I thought about my life, where I had been and wondered where I was going. I thought about this amazing sisterhood I had become part of, and I knew I would miss them dearly.

I also thought about our next little jaunt before breakfast the next morning and hoped it was not going to be at Nymph Falls. It was.

The next morning we are up and gather in the van for our next mini adventure and as the driver is going along the road, I ask them if they are going to Nymph Falls, they are,-you know what I silently said to myself- I told them it was further up the road and on the left hand side. We pull into the parking lot I am trying to calm myself, and we get out of the van. The instructions are to go along the trail, run or mindfully walk, and meet up at the falls. If you’re always running here and there try walking, if you walk all the time, try running. The idea is to push our comfort zone a little bit. As soon as they said that, my eyes well up and I say..”Just being here is pushing my comfort zone.” One of the instructors says, “Is this a trigger place for you?” I replied “Yep, sure is, this feels like it has been a week long heavy duty therapy session.”  It was hard, but I mindfully,but mostly not so mindfully, - walked to the falls. Once again flashbacks, old beliefs etc came flying at me everywhere I looked. But with the support of the group and instructors I did some more ghost busting and I was not going to let them win.

We get back to camp and were once more treated to a feast. It was a great breakfast and there was lots of chatter and laughing. All too soon it is time to pack up, gather our things and head our separate ways. There was hugs, laughter, pictures taken and plenty of tears, and yes, I do miss my sisterhood.

I think often think about those beautiful women on my course. Suzanne, Jillian, Sherry, Arden, Gabrielle, Jenny, Asia and Jody. I can see their smiles, hear their laughter, and fell their strength. I can feel them with me and I will be forever grateful for their amazing gifts they have given me, this has allowed me to discover who I am. That is priceless!

It took me some time to recover when I got back home, and there have been amazing changes with me. Some large, some small. I am now able to stand up for myself and take an item back to the store and request a refund or exchange, or to get them to somehow rectify the situation. I had tea with my retired psychiatrist- and his wife, he was the one I was seeing when I went on my very 1st Women of Courage course back in 2005- he said to  "if there was word to describe what I saw it would be Differenter. Of all the courses you have been on, you seem to be the most changed from this one.” I asked him “How?" You seem to stand taller and straighter, more sure and secure with who you are.” Was his reply.

It was a bit rough as I knew I had a lot more work to do once I got home and off the trail. I have worked with my therapist and we have worked through the emotions and the processing of the discoveries I found on the trail, working through the grief of what happened to me,and celebrating  my new found discoveries  has allowed space to open up and let all the new and wonderful things in my life in.

I have gone on day hikes in Srathcona Park with one of the girls from my ringette team and it has been amazing.  It has been amazing and enlightening, because of the last W.O.C. course, I am now able to go on these hikes without having the "boogie man" around the next corner or following me, this is an amazing feeling of freedom, something I have never be able to experience before. I am now able to be fully in the present and take in my surroundings and soak up all that amazing beauty around me.  
There was one trail we were on, we were along a ridgeline and it opened up to a place that was covered in fallen logs and the trail seemed to peter out. There was little ground vegetation as it was in the shade. We stood and started to look around for the trail, if we followed one section that looked like a trail, we would go over the steep incline- fine for a deer, but not us, - I then told my hiking partner to look for a place where the fallen logs had been cut with a chainsaw, and that's where the trail would be, we did, and found it and carried on. Now this may not seem like a big deal, but in the past, I would have been filled with panic and not be able to pull that information, thought out of my brain. I would have had to go back, and now that I think of it, I would not have even gotten that far as the "boogie man" would have stopped me from even trying a trail I had never been on, let alone something 4 hours in the mountains. Because of the last W.O.C. course I was able to carry on and enjoy the rest of the day.  

Before going on the course I was scheduled to do 2 presentations during the teacher’s professional development days. One in Campbell River, and one here in the Comox Valley. This is a huge breakthrough for me, and I believe the school boards, and I will be talking about children and youth mental health and what they can do to help support their students. Before I went on the course I wondered if I could pull it off, now I have no worries whatsoever, and know I can go in there 100 % who I am, I don’t need to do it any other way.  

It has been a busy summer, and now it gets even better. A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from Outward Bound Canada ….. You may have heard that we are running an alumni trip in the Bugaboos this September 4 - 10th. CMH has lent us their facilities & staff (including their chef!) and we are running a modified lodge based course for WOC alumni. Still a WOC course with all the good stuff but also an added element.
We still have a few spaces to fill and are looking for former students who would make good ambassadors for the WOC program. Women who would feel comfortable speaking out - perhaps on camera - and representing what we do to potential donors and sponsors. We are hoping to put together a PR package for WOC to use to attract potential Donors &/or Sponsors :)
We are striving to have representation from across the country - various ages and stages - and you will be sleeping in beds and this time have access to flush toilettes! 
If this is something that would be of interest to you please let me know. The course begins and ends in Calgary so you would have to be able to make your own way there and back.
Have a super rest of your day!

I will give you 3 guesses what my answer was!!! This time next week I will be getting to know the other ladies in the group and another adventure will begin. Who would have thought that 45 years ago, when I was in grade 8, when a few people from Outward Bound Canada came and spoke to the school, I would be doing this all these years later? And yes, I am taking two packages of Tim Tam cookies to introduce others to the Tim Tam Slam!

Who would have thought, that back in February, when I was having a very hard time, when everything seemed too much, that I would be doing this 6 months later. This once again goes to show, you never know what is around the corner and that is why you need to hang on, even when you can’t see the corner, let alone the light.

Those of us who have experienced childhood trauma, especially severe trauma and abuse, never felt safe, or learned who we were or what we could do, because we spent all our energy for so many years trying to survive. We never had the luxury of relaxing, or being in a place of safety where we could discover and explore who we are. We had to always be on alert to watch, to read others, to try to stay one step ahead of the chaos.

I have spent many years and enormous energy working on my past issues, learning why I felt and did the things I did, and then to learn new coping skills. It has been hard, painful, scary and grueling work and many times I did not think I was going to make it. But, so far I have.
Today my son and I went down to one of the Puntledge River and watched the Spring Salmon swimming around, waiting to go back home, back up the river.

I guess all my therapy, growth and hard work is about coming home, not to a specific place, but to oneself, to who I really am, the ME that was hidden away and afraid to come out.

There is no big party, fancy ball or press announcements for this homecoming. I am fine with that. Because, this Homecoming is sweet, just the way it is.

I will leave you with a poem someone sent me during a very difficult time.

The Unbroken

There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken,
a shatteredness
out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is sorrow
beyond grief which leads to joy
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength.

there is a hollow space
too vast for words
through which we pass with each loss,
out of whose darkness
we are snatched into being

There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open to the place inside
which is unbreakable and whole,
while learning to sing.

Those are my thoughts for today. Be safe and well in your journey, and one day you will be welcoming your true self home.

Cheers and be well


Suzy