The Dogs of Depression: A Guide for Happy People

The Dogs of Depression: A Guide for Happy People

Saturday 9 February 2019

Trauma 2.0

Feeling ...... don’t know what I’m feeling. 

Nine years ago today everything was normal. Nine years ago tomorrow, I had brain surgery and everything changed. 

I thought I would be physically the same after. I wasn’t. 

I thought I would return to who I used to be. I didn’t. 

I thought it would take time to heal, but I wasn’t prepared for Malina 2.0. 

No one tells you the damage a ruptured brain aneurysm will do to you physically, mentally or emotionally, or what the cost is to family and friends.

No one prepares you for the rage, anger, depression, suicidal thoughts, wisdom, strength, growth, and passion that can come from getting as close to death and still survive. 

No one understands this journey except for people who walk the path with you. I am lucky I didn’t lose my husband. Most do. I am lucky to have some of my family stay. Most don’t. I am lucky I am employed. Most aren’t. 

The fallout of a traumatic injury is horrendous. I lost so much more than short term memory damage. Every day is still a fight, but it is getting easier. 

What I learned is love and kindness are the only things that matter. Don’t accept or give anything less. Don’t let others determine your self worth. Try new things. Learn new passions. Keep living, and fighting, and breathing. 

People will leave. Let them go. It will hurt more than anything else. It will feel like battery acid pouring on your soul and you will feel like walking over the edge. 


Because everything changes. Even the crippling pain. 

A brain aneurysm changed my life forever. I will never be who I was, and that’s okay. To quote Hannibal, that is my design. 

Lessons Learned: love hard. Love yourself harder. You will survive this pain. The pain will come back and it will change. Depression and anger are normal. Suicidal thoughts are normal. Numbing and isolation are normal. All normal reactions to an abnormal event. 

Get help when you reach the end of your rope. Talk to someone who will listen. Read books. Educate yourself. Know you can survive and it will be the toughest thing you will ever do. Be sad, but do not live there. Find the good stuff and grab on. There is so much more to do, to love, and to experience. The only constant in life, is 

Tuesday 1 January 2019

Adverse Childhood Experience Score and Trauma

Do you know your ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) score? Take the quiz and find out. The score is 0-10.

Interesting fact: having a higher score can cause all kinds of health issues in middle age. The top diseases include liver damage, Fibromyalgia, IBS, GERD, muscle pain, chronic fatigue, cancer, kidney damage, ulcers, high blood pressure, insomnia and more.

What happens is glucocosteroids trigger the sympathetic nervous system without you knowing it. That sore shoulder that never seems to find relief from pain could be from tension spiked by a chemical response in your body while you sleep. Without treating childhood trauma, life does not get easier. Studies have shown childhood trauma takes an average of 19 years off life expectancy.

The positive side is having one person who loved you, listened to you as a child, someone who helped you can also lower the risk and side effects.

Tenets of Trauma Treatment

1. No Judgement:We are all on a journey and we all have a past. Thoughts and beliefs are examined in a non-judgemental way to allow for change and growth. We look at things from a neutral and rational perspective, and take it everything as it is, including ourselves and others as they are, which leads to;​

2. Curiosity:We become curious about behaviours and analyze them based on what the intention, or what was the decision based on what our experiences were at the time, which leads to;

3. Acceptance:We learn things as they are and drop the assumptions, or the stories we've told ourselves. We stop the tapes running through our heads, and reframe them with;

4. Positive Action and Thought:We move forward through positive action and thought, and re-wire the brain to stop the stories, and to become;

5. Objective: We look at beliefs, thoughts, patterns, decisions and actions, and examine them objectively, and how our emotions tied into those beliefs, and then we;

6. Reframe our World View: Finally, we show different thoughts and beliefs giving us a different perspective; examine the issue and problems in a new light, which can allow us to move forward, and then we;

7. Set Realistic Expectations: Being realistic means that patterns can change from negative to positive, and we may have set backs, however, we also have the power to change the set backs and move forward. We have realistic expectations so when set backs occur, we have the tools to stop the spiral and create healthy coping mechanisms.

The beautiful experience that comes from working with these basic principles is Post Traumatic Growth, the positive creation that comes from trauma. Create growth with these five pillars:

1. Build Mental Toughness

2. Search the Good Stuff

3. Look at our Character Strengths

4. Build Strong Relationships

5. Assertive Communication

Friday 26 October 2018

Life Balance: Creating Positve Change

I attended a great National Manager's Conference the other day with speakers from across Canada, and across all levels of government. The overall message is 'People are our greatest resource'. I firmly believe this because as a leader, people are what make or break a team, an organization or a business.

So why do so many of us not feel the spirit behind the message? Why do these five words cause consternation and emotional dissonance? What are we doing as leaders to support our people?

According to the American Institute of Stress, 65% of people reporting that workplace stress impacts negatively on their lives, not only on the job but overall. This is a small excerpt form the article.
Highlighted statistics from the CDC NIOSH report:

•40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful
•25% view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives
•Three fourths of employees believe that workers have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago
•29% of workers felt quite a bit or extremely stressed at work
•26 percent of workers said they were “often or very often burned out or stressed by their work”
•Job stress is more strongly associated with health complaints than financial or family problems

Highlighted statistics from the Attitude in the Workplace Report:

•80% of workers feel stress on the job, nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress and 42% say their coworkers need such help
•14% of respondents had felt like striking a coworker in the past year, but didn’t
•25% have felt like screaming or shouting because of job stress, 10% are concerned about an individual at work they fear could become violent
•9% are aware of an assault or violent act in their workplace and 18% had experienced some sort of threat or verbal intimidation in the past year.

This is a serious issue and there are numerous courses, seminars and workshops that teach us how to cope with stress, and teach us what the repercussions are to our health when dispositive changes occur in the workplace.

People become disengaged, morale plummets, sick days increase, people are calling it in, rather than giving it their all, which decreases productivity and we end up with a generation of unhealthy people. Doctors visits increase, which places a burden on our health care system, substance and drug abuse increases which impacts our bodies, and we become complacent believing nothing can change. 

People are our most valuable resource, but when the writing on the wall says we can hire a younger, cheaper version of a seasoned and knowledgeable employee, or we can cut your status or pay, but you still get to have all the responsibility, then what really is the message? And as an employee, how do you mitigate the impact to your life and to your family?

Attitude: become versed in keeping emotion out of your attitude. Much easier said than done, since this can feel personal. Step away, emotionally, and look at the reason behind decisions, but do this based on fact, not the tapes running through your head. You know what I mean. Someone will say or do something, such as invite an entire team for coffee, but neglect to offer the invitation to you, and you watch as they all walk past your desk, without telling you they are leaving or why. 

Immediately you start telling yourself, you don't matter, they don't like you, why should you do anything for them in the future and you spiral into a vortex of anger and hurt. Stop. Stop this tape. It is self defeating. Instead become curious. Is there another reason why you did not get an invite? You can do this by checking in with someone when they return. A simple way to approach this is to ask,"Hey Fred, I am curious about why you didn't let me know you were all leaving." Check in with the person, but do it in a way that is not emotional, not accusatory, and do it without the tapes running in your head. 

You may get an answer such as it was a project meeting we needed to discuss to work on details, or any other number of reasons that have nothing to do with you personally. By checking in, we can reframe those negative associations we make, which causes increased stress. 

Stay focused on your role and responsibility: what is the reason behind what you do? Are you doing it to the best of your ability? Are you able to keep up with the demands and pace of your job? Do you need additional resources, tools, time? Reflect on these questions and if you need help, say so, but again, do it without the emotion. Storming into your manager's office and making demands will not work quite as well as setting up an appointment with a clear message of what you want to discuss, and then go the appointment with your issues, and your possible solutions. If you are just coming in without solutions, you have not done your job. All you are doing is complaining. 

Leaders take the time to discover what the issue is and come up with options and solutions. Do not expect your manager or boss to help you if you are not willing to come up with some ideas as to how you can change your work in order to help yourself. I use the word leader intentionally, because regardless of your job title, you are all leaders, and how you behave reflects on whether you are eligible for promotion and effects your reputation. Anyone can come up with reasons why something will not work, how it will fail and why it can't be done. Step out of the crowd and come up with possible solutions. This takes the ego out of the equation and instead, empowers your brain into thinking solution rather than problem. 

Leave the problems at work: Change your thoughts by changing your beliefs and staying focused on the positive. Make a mental decision to lessen the affect of stress in your life by telling yourself that when your hand touches the door handle when you leave your office, your work stays in the office. All of it. 

This has to be a conscious decision and it has to be repeated each and every day in order to reframe your brain into believing that work can and should stay at work. This is a skill, and as all skills, needs practise. 

Do not take it home. Do not let it interfere or take you away from your partner, your children, your passions, your life. Because it will. If you allow the job to follow you around like a dark cloud, the quality of your life changes. 

We spend one third of our lives at work, one third of it sleeping and one third somewhere else. Do not allow the one third of the work place to intrude on the other two thirds. It is not fair to you or your family. Disengage from work when you reach that door handle. Take a deep breath, float all those negative feelings out of your mind and let them go. 

Instead, focus on what you love, what gives you drive, what your passions are, and your health, your family and fun. 

Change your thoughts, change your beliefs and change those mental tapes. The best part is, once you change one, the others change as well. 

Stay positive, stay healthy, stay in the present. 


Friday 10 August 2018

The New Face of PTSD

I read an interesting article the other day on Medium about PTSD. The writer opined that PTSD has changed from the war torn soldier facing demons from what they encountered during operational duties to one that affects many people in day to day lives, and how this change causes people to react differently to someone who has PTSD from abuse, a serious medical injury, severe emotional bullying from parents or witnessing horrific acts, or being made to particiapte in horrific acts, from someone who has PTSD from being in the military or a police officer.

Interesting as I was just talking to my husband about this very topic last week. The typical spin on PTSD, or, as it is called in the military and RCMP, an OSI...Operational Stress Injury, kind of confirms this line of thinking; PTSD from an operational perspective is somehow more damaging psychologically than PTSD from being beaten and raped as a child, being traumatized by another adult or facing a life altering event.

After studying trauma for the past thirty years, and extensively for the past three years, I can tell you, trauma is trauma, no matter what you call it or how you dress it up, or under what circumstances it was conceived in.

The reactions are the same: sever anxiety, depression, grief, drug and alcohol abuse to numb the pain, hyper vigilance, hyper startle reflex, insomnia, nightmares, night terrors, anger, uncontrollable rage. Then there are the physiological responses: ulcers, severe acid reflux, digestive problems, internal organ damage from the onslaught of cortisol coursing through the body, vagus nerve damage, headaches, nausea, migraines, tinnitus, vomiting, heart palpitations, angina, internal bleeding, brain aneurysms, muscle and nerve damage, fibromyalgia, and much more.

What you do not hear about is how many women commit suicide because of horrific abuse suffered by the hands of their parents during childhood. Or, how many people have severe PTSD after being beaten and abused, emotionally or mentally from their partners. Sexual crimes against women are still being debated as to whether it is consensual or not, regardless of the emotional damage.

Coaches, Priests, and Boy Scout Leaders that systematically traumatized boys in their care, either verbally, physically or sexually, are not outed until the victim comes forward. And then, typically, the victim has to fight the stigma of being a male that was raped. And then he gets the added benefit of PTSD.

We have to start making the connection that any type of assault on people, verbal, sexual, or physical creates long lasting, damaging consequences. Bullying of any form on anyone, whether in the workplace, schools, homes, universities or the hockey arena creates damage that is not easily repaired.

We need to understand the depth of violence we create and are responsible for, with our actions. And most of all, we need to support and help the people that are injured. We need to listen. We need to sincerely apologize, and we need to acknowledge their pain.

Far too long we have been silent or silenced because it makes others uncomfortable. That is unacceptable.

If you suffer from trauma, speak out, get help, talk to someone you trust. There are numerous resources available in Canada and the US either through your work, in the mental heath community or through the medical community. Reach out. Say something, say anything. You matter.

If you cannot speak out, write it out. Take twenty minute and write or draw, anything. Let the feelings and the emotions pour out. You do not have to be grammatically correct, or an artist to release the demons. Draw and write whatever spews forth, and then burn it. The very act of pouring out your thoughts rather than stuffing them down, and then burning away those thoughts can bring about a feeling of catharsis. And maybe, one day, you will be strong enough to seek help. Do this for yourself. Do this for the people that love you.

Sometimes, we are harder on ourselves than we are on others. We believe we are at fault, we deserve the crappy life we are wallowing in, because somehow we said or did the wrong thing, we were in the wrong place at the wrong time, we dressed inappropriately, we said something that upset the balance, and nothing could be further from the truth. We keep ourselves locked up from guilt and shame, because it is easier to believe we had control over the event and that somehow we can prevent it from happening again, if we dress correctly, not speak up or out, if we follow the rules, if we tried harder, if we remain silent. This is reinforced by others who fear the same thing can happen to them, so well-meaning friends and relatives will tell you, if you hadn’t been walking alone at night, you would not have been assaulted; if you had not been drunk, you would have been safe; if you were not alone with the coach or priest, you would not have been molested; if you had not made your partner angry, you would have not been beaten.

I’ve had trauma survivors tell me that their children have disclosed abuse, and the children are lying because they are seeking attention. These adults are so damaged, that they cannot see what is happening in front of them and choose to believe their child is at fault, and consequently, they are at fault as well for their own abuse.

Years ago a small town in Alberta had a disproportionate number of rapes. The solution? Do not allow women to walk outside after 8:00 PM. Instead of locking up the men, they locked up the women.

This magical thinking serves two purposes: it keeps people scared so they do not repeat what you did and they believe that keeps them safe, and it reinforces the lesson that you are at fault.

Change is difficult, and the people in our lives will be uncomfortable with changes we make to keep ourselves healthy. Be prepared to lose friends and family. But, also look forward to having some control over your life. Accept that you deserve peace, stability and love. People who love you, will support you. There is hope.

Canadian Resources: 
Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868
Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645
Native Youth Crisis Line: 1-877-209-1266
Centre for Suicide Prevention: 1-833-456-4566
American Resources:
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255


Monday 2 April 2018

Living with Trauma

Another holiday has passed, and I am thankful. This time I did not cry, although I was quieter than usual. But, I did not cry. I did not go to bed to lick my wounds. I got sick, but I pushed through it and stayed. That's huge.

I have never been a fan of holidays as the reminders all around of what a happy family is, spending time with family, hallmark moments and all the hyperbole surrounding what a traditional family is just confirms the terrors and actions of a few can damage other for life, sucking all that is good and leaving a husk of a person behind.

Most days I feel like a fraud, like I am a fake person walking in a shell of a human being, being happy, joking, laughing and joining in. Holidays are the absolute worst. The stress of knowing the depth of my longing for, but never having a complete family where I fit in, is non existent.

Happiness is a choice, but it is also a chemical balance in the gut and brain. I work hard at being happy. I struggle with it every single day, and not for lack of trying. I meditate, do yoga, read voraciously on any medical, psychological and scientific research available, I do not stuff  my feelings anymore, I eat...when my body allows me to, I sleep, when my mind allows me to, I take all my prescribed meds. Like my doctor says, I am doing all the right things. Trouble is, all it takes is one little holiday to make me want to disappear.

I know there are a lot of us that feel this way. I see it in my extended family's posts, I hear it in my groups, and it seems no one gets it unless you have been there.

This year I decided to move on from my life, and reinvent a new one. So far, it's been a good journey, three months into the year. But I know, no matter what happens, that little traumatized, abused kid, the one that almost died, twice, the one that had more betrayal in one lifetime than others see in 10, will never fully trust and will never fully be functional as a normal human being.

I am my trauma. I am my brain damage. I am my CPTSD. I'm reminded of it when I get sick around family events and holidays. I am reminded by it when I look around and know I don't really fit in with anyone. I am reminded of it when I become emotionally paralyzed and don't know how to proceed further. My traumas (yes, multiple) changed me as a person emotionally, mentally and physically. This is the new reality. I accept it. I just wish it didn't hurt.

I will keep fighting. But there are days when I just want it all to go away and have a do over life. Do I wish I had done things differently? You bet. But I cannot keep looking past, and I haven't in a long while. I focus on the now. I don't think about the future. I try to stay in the moment and I carry on.

Thursday 1 March 2018

THE GOAT PARADE by Peter Dudar

Today’s Five Star Author is Peter N Dudar for THE GOAT PARADE. Wow, this is a mind blowing, intricately woven tale of power, madness and the general disillusionment of young adults.

There are so many great things about this book: the flavour of Charles Manson and his cult, the mindlessness of Satanism, the theme, the plot, the arcs that flow in all directions in a tight, controlled and well thought out manner, the characters, even the bad ones, but specially the one with the tortured soul, a kindred spirit of Robert Johnson.

I loved Erik Marsh, a divorced journalist working the crime beat who wants to make a change. Covering grizzly murders and dealing with the dregs of society cost him his marriage, and is creating havoc with his mind. All he wants is a normal life and time with his son, Owen. He meets a Gypsy princess, who has a horrific backstory, and they develop an acquaintance. But, is it for good or for evil? Svetlana has a gift. With the touch of her hand, she can read your soul.

And then there’s Owen, a sweet kid caught in the clutches of nihilistic, megalomaniac and his harem of meth soaked, human carcasses.

The ending shook me. This is the first time in all five decades of reading, that an ending skewered me. I have read thousands of books and this is the only time an ending has wanted me to scream. Not in anger, but in the sheer horror. I think that’s what set this book apart from anything else I have read. The talent and genius of this book has got to be studied by anyone who thinks they know what it is like to write well.

This book was amazing from start to finish. Dudar is not one to be messed with. He can hold his own in the horror world, and, I suspect, will go far.

Saturday 10 February 2018

Let's Talk, Ten Days Later

Stress has kicked up a notch and again, I did not put two and two together. I'm a simple girl sometimes. My left eye has been twitching up a storm for the past week and my right arm and hand are numb. IBS has come back with a vengeance. And all because I forgot about where I was 8 years ago today.

Mind you, the stress of the Year from Hell, 2017, helped as well. We shall never talk of that year again. I want a do-over in many areas of my life. But I did the best I could, considering.

September, nine years ago I started having weird headaches, localized over my left eye, old twitchy I call him now. September 13, 2008, I had this sharp, stabbing pain in that very same spot and the pain got worse with each heartbeat. Actually, it was in time with my heartbeat. And the pain grew worse with each pulse.

Took some Advil, Tylenol, Gravol a couple of muscle relaxants, and went back to bed. Called my doc, and made excuses as to what was happening. She decided I should get an MRI. It would take five months.

October 23, 2008, it happened again, only this time it felt like an icepick was driven into my head right above my left eye, and the left side of my neck was screaming. I remember not being able to shoulder check for almost two years because of the pain. To this day, range of motion has still not returned.

Did the same cocktail of meds, called in sick, called my husband and told him if the headache did not go away in twenty minutes I would get a friend to drive me to the hospital. And went back to bed.

I was drooling (still do actually, but now it's fun....) slurring my words, stumbling. Still did not make the connection. Intense pain will do that. Shortens the ability of the neo cortex to make rational decisions.

A couple more months go by and the pain would happen over my eye when I laughed, coughed, or sneezed. These are called exertion headaches. Only in my case, my brain was bleeding. I did not know this.

Had the MRI and a few days later got called into the Neurologist's office. He says, straight forward, "You have a brain aneurysm, now let's talk about those migraines." The way he said it,I thought, huh, no big deal. We're talking migraines.

He made a referral, to what I found out later, to the BEST Neurosurgeon in North America, who happened to be practising here in Winnipeg. Four days later, Dr. West had a miracle cancellation. I saw him over lunch. Again, I thought 30 minute appointment, discuss options, maybe see him in 6 months, get on with life.

Should have recognized what the word URGENT in big red letters meant across my folder. We talked. He asked questions. I couldn't concentrate on the answer unless my eyes were closed to reduce the stimulus. Apparently I gave all the right, or wrong answers, depending on your point of view and I had an angiogram within a couple of hours.

I still assumed I would be going home. I didn't. Was hospitalized and bumped 19 neurosurgeries, the only exception being a pregnant women.

Even while being in the hospital, it still did not occur to me what was going on. I blame it on the bleeding in my brain and not my lack of medical knowledge or mental capacity. My brain had been bleeding off and on for five months.

The anaesthesiologist came in at 11:00 am. And that's when it hit. I was going in for brain surgery today. Not six months from now. Today. In a matter of hours.

What should have been a two hour surgery took five and a half hours. No one bothered to let my husband know. He was told two hours. I cannot imagine the hell he went through, the questions he had the sheer terror of not knowing what was happening, if I was even alive.

It would be another two months when Dr. West told me I had a 15% survival rate. If this had happened five years earlier, I would have died. Had I not gone to the doctor and her insisting upon an MRI, I would have died.

In 2008, all I knew of brain aneurysms is, if they rupture, that's it. Game over. You lose. I had never heard of anyone surviving a rupture. I survived two. Don't know why. And I still think about that. Why me? It's not survivor's guilt, because I have no guilt, just a curiosity about why I survived. Timing, the right place to be, the best neurosurgeon, a great call by my doctor all came into play.

The next 18 months were bliss. I was at peace. I was calm. I had intense lucid dreams, and intense spiritual experience and I was happy. Then August of 2012, I was diagnosed with a daughter aneurysm, one that shares the same artery and wall as the original. And my world blew apart.

I already had severe PTSD from a soul crippling childhood, now it kicked into overdrive and became C-PTSD, C for complex, compound PTSD. Six years later it still has not diminished.

I have, however, learned to tame an extent. Old twitchy reminds me, my numbness in my arms reminds me, and now my chronic IBS reminds me. Any kind of stress is bad. Yes, all you fitness and doctors that espouse eustress is good, I'm here to tell you, it's not.

Meditation, yoga, walking, talking, music, being alone, driving fast, and Netflix binging all helps. Some days, however, life is a Bittersweet Symphony. A myriad of thoughts run through my brain on any given day; how long till I die, when should I retire, should I eat today, what's the point, hey, that's a really great car, damn I love Olle, I need a Boston Terrier named MonkeyPooper....did I mention I also have ADD. Or as Olle calls it, Another Damn Day.

So, let's talk. One in 50 will develop a brain aneurysm. Out of the 50, 20 will rupture. Out of the 20, 16 will die.

Hospitals in Winnipeg are terrible for diagnosing brain aneurysms in women. One died on the floor in the ER at the Grace a few years ago. She was screaming, lying on the floor and no one took her seriously.

I was at the ER a few years back, waiting in the hallway, when a doctor in his mid thirties sarcastically announces to the nurse sitting behind the desk, that a woman walked in complaining of a severe headache and he "Kicked her out, like a boss," while fist pumping the air, and I thought you stupid bastard. I wonder what happened to her.....

November 16, 2017, a senior woman almost died in St. Boniface after waiting in the ER, with a severe headache and and eyelid that drooped. They gave her two CT scans, one with dye, and told her she was fine. Four day later, she could not open her eye, went to Misercordia Hospital, and gave her another couple of CT scans and told her she was fine. Thankfully, she called her family doctor who told her to immediately go to the Health Sciences Centre and they found the aneurysm. She had surgery and made it.

So I guess my question is, why are ER's so bad at this? I always assumed to be an ER doctor, you had to know your stuff, you had to be aware of all the terrible things that can happen to a human, and now I am wondering if the reverse is true.

I am also wondering if men are treated differently than women (saying that sarcastically) and why women are still being ignored when coming in with medical issues. Curiously, I haven't heard of anything like this happening to men in Winnipeg. Yup, they did CT scans and the CT scan came out clean. Makes me wonder if maybe CT scans are not all that wonderful for brain aneurysms. Considering 1 in 50, that terrifies me.

I wear a medic alert bracelet that says TAKE ONLY TO HSC because I do not want to become a statistic. 

I also let others know what to look for, where to go, what questions to ask and what resources are out there. When this happened 8 years ago, there were few places in Winnipeg and even less resources for information. I walked out of the hospital with a one page paper telling me to take Aspirin for 8 weeks. Nothing else. Nothing on when I could work again, drive, what to look for, what I should avoid, what was normal, what was critical, nothing. 

Now at least there is information for people that want answers, and research. 

Does life get better? I'm going to say yes. At least I hope so. So today will be meloncholy, and tomorrow I will move on. 

Check out the link below for more info. 

Peace, Love and be good to yourself.