Baby Steps Add Up Too Big Things...

Baby Steps Add Up Too Big Things...

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Baby Steps Add...

Baby Steps Add Up.…

Well, once again it has been a “few” months since my last blog.  It has been a time of learning and growth, and during these times I don’t have a lot of excess energy or brain power to write, and, I am learning too be OK with that.

I had spent the rest of the summer and the early part of fall being mindful, sitting still, quiet walks, alone time and processing. Yes, it was hard, and yes it was worth it. This was another step that was needed for me to get where I am now.

During this time, I started thinking I wanted to learn more about my condition, Dissociative Identity Disorder. By this, I mean I wanted to learn the science behind it. But did I want to go to school for the next 10 years? No, not really. It was then that the universe provided.

I had gotten word that some service agencies here were holding a workshop “Dissociation 101: How to work with people who have experienced complex and chronic trauma” They had invited someone called Christine C. Former from Calgary.  She is a member of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation-(I.S.S.T.D.) - I had not heard of her, but I had heard about the I.S.S.T.D.  and at one time had been a member when I could get their student membership.  They are the foremost experts in this field.

So, I thought about this workshop for a while. I asked myself “Why would I want to take this workshop?” It was a big chunk of money for me, and I wanted to make sure I was doing it for the right reasons. The answer was that I wanted to be able to listen and talk to someone who knows the science behind this condition and has access to the studies and research that I don’t. I wanted to make sure that what I was saying in my talks and workshops were correct, and I wanted to get the latest information, theories etc. so I could share them with my audiences.   

Once I understood why I wanted to be there, I sent an email to the contact person to see if I could take it- as I am not a service provider or affiliated with any organization. I thought all I could do is ask. So, I sent an email telling the agency who I was, what I do, why I wanted to take it etc. and asked if I would be able to take the workshop, and the answer came back that I could.

So last month, during an 18 hour weekend workshop, I learned the science behind dissociation. I learned that of the psychiatric conditions, this is one the most studied, and the most scrutinized.  We know what causes this, that’s more then we know about many of the other conditions. We have thousands of studies- decades of scientific research to back this up.

I learned that what I have been saying/teaching, and my understanding of what goes on in the brain and the central nervous system is spot on, but now I have the science behind it.  When I give my presentation I sometimes wonder “Do I need to go to school to learn about this?” And I have come to the conclusion that I do not. There are experts out there, doing the research, it’s out there if people want to read up and study and get more information. What I do have and can give, is a unique perspective that comes from lived experience, from someone who has been there, gone through the wars and come out the other side. And I am learning that this is pretty special in itself.

On the first day, we all introduced ourselves, of course I was the only “non-professional” there- and I did disclose I live with this condition. I did this because for me, my childhood was full of secrets, and I no longer need to keep this a secret. I also reassured the group that I am not going to turn into a Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde, and that this condition is nothing like Hollywood portrays. I told the group I would not be switching like Hollywood shows.  The facilitator- Christine said something like “Well, if you do, I got it”- she is also a therapist J

I also told the group that it did my heart good to see so many people interested and willing to learn and thanked them for their courage to come and learn about something that can be scary if you don’t understand it.  I have been speaking publicly about living with this condition for about 12 years, it’s nice to see that the community sees and understands the need to better understand this condition and learn how they can better help their clients.

It was an amazing weekend, I learned tons, met some lovely people, made more connections and came away even more self-assured that what I am doing is what I am meant to do. When you work on your own, you do have times you doubt yourself, or at least I do. I have put out the offer to those folks at the workshop that if they have questions, or would like me to come and talk to them, or their group, about what it is like to live with this condition, I am more than willing to do so.

As I said, it was an amazing workshop, and I met some lovely people and some asked me really good questions and great conversations happened. It was really cool when someone told me they recognized my name from the article I wrote, - someone had forwarded it to him. Someone else came up to me and said...” Since you’re the one expert here, what do you think of the workshop?”  I smiled and said, “Awe, thanks”.  I told her the workshop was great, and everything the facilitator was saying was right on, and that it was good to learn the science behind the condition. I now have a better understanding physiologically what was happening in my body and brain when I was switching, memory lapses etc., I now understand. And I also realized how far I had come.  That is pretty amazing, and powerful.

One morning following the workshop I was going for a walk through the woods and I was thinking of how far I have come in this healing journey of mine. I thought back to the days before I was diagnosed and thought I was crazy, losing my mind and at times, wondered if I had early onset Alzheimer’s. I wondered why other people could seem to function and remember appointments, to pay bills, etc. and I couldn’t. I wondered if life would ever get better, or even if there was a “better.” Those were some dark days. During those days I could never imagine I would be where I am now, doing what I am doing, and being able to walk into a room full of strangers, all professionals, and not only feel confident about who I am and what I know, but believe, and know in my bones that I have something to offer. 

It took a long time to get here, a lot of work, a lot of tears, a lot of support. There were many moments of doubt, and I know I will still have those moments now and then. I know I will have good days, and not so good days, but during those not so good days, I know it will get better.

I also know that I am here, not because of giant leaps, but because of thousands and thousands of baby steps, some so small they were microscopic.

Sometimes we can become overwhelmed by the enormity of a task, I know I do. Things can seem so big that it just overwhelms us and we don’t know where to start. 

I want to tell you that things change when we make little steps. Sometimes, when we are struggling we can’t seem to make a full step, I understand that so well. When those times arrive, do baby, or  micro steps. What is a micro step you may ask?  If you are breathing, that is a micro step forward!

The steps don’t need to be huge, because many little steps add up.

NASA did not decide to land a man on the moon, then do it. It took many years and many steps, and a lot of support to get there. I didn’t get where I am, and develop the ability to do what I can now do because I thought of it. It took many years, many steps, and a lot of support. But, like landing the man on the moon, being where I am today is also pretty frigging amazing!

Those are my thoughts for today, may you be kind to yourself during this journey we call life.

Cheers and be well
Suzy
PS- here is a link to The I.S.S.T.D. http://www.isst-d.org/

Here is a link to Christine C. Former, she was amazing, authentic, knowledgeable and funny J https://www.thetraumatherapistproject.com/podcast/christine-forner-ba-bsw-msw/

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