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: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/99-101/

•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: https://www.stress.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/2001Attitude-in-the-Workplace-Harris.pdf

•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. 

#mentalhealthmatters
#leadership
#thewildthingyoga


https://www.stress.org/workplace-stress/

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

https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/mental-health-resources/


#mentalhealthmatters



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.


https://www.amazon.com/Goat-Parade-Peter-N-Dudar-ebook/dp/B079WHPXLF/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1519950278&sr=8-1&keywords=the+goat+parade

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 it.....to 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.


https://www.bafound.org/about-brain-aneurysms/brain-aneurysm-basics/warning-signs-symptoms/

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Let's Talk....The Redux

January 31, 2018 is Bell Let's Talk Day. Every day should be a Let's Talk Day. Or at least a Let's Be Open-Minded Day. Being a horror writer has been a blessing for me. It kept me sane, grounded and allowed me to disappear within a world I had control over, where no one could touch me and I was safe. It is that same refuge for me today. I am one of the lucky ones. That does not mean my life is easy or that every day is a picnic. Dealing with a brain injury that caused brain damage juxtaposed with depression, compound complex PTSD and three or four auto-immune diseases has been...interesting. And that's okay. It just means I get to read the same book 12 times and still be surprised. And I get to sit in the new bathroom for hours watching the beautiful floor and backsplash.

In the horror community, there are many of us that struggle with depression, severe, crippling, clinical depression. There are others that battle BiPolar issues, PTSD, mental illness brought on by chronic illness and pain and sometimes, all of the above. Some of us give up. Some turn to drugs or alcohol. Others sabotage themselves so they can beat themselves up and say, "See, I told you you were a loser."

Mental Illness comes from a variety of issues; some are chemical imbalances, others are herediatry and some are brought on by severe childhood abuse, trauma, and soul sucking treatment by the hands of those that love us. Does this make it any easier? Nope. But maybe, just maybe if we stopped treating children as throw away, disposable items while we only think of our own selfish needs, such as drug addictions, pedaphile addictions, alcohol abuse or parents that create kids and bail, we wouldn't need a Let's Talk Day. 

I bet that if child abuse ended today, and we really believed for one minute that children are the future pap, most of our mental health issues would disappear overnight, along with the majority of stress related diseases like fibromyalgia, and IBS. Yes, mental illness would still exist because of genetic issues, but I truly believe the majority of us were broken as kids by people who 'loved us'.

If 90% of all medical, physical illness is caused by stress, I believe that 90% of all mental illness is caused by child abuse, childhood trauma, or situational trauma.

Superbowl Sunday is coming up, or as I call it, the best day of the year for human trafficking. How many of those kids are dealing with mental illness because someone is making a buck off of their backs? Most of those kids will be lucky to make it out alive, let alone, whole.

Mental illness is just as debilitating and just as challenging as living with Crohn's, diabetes, or Downs Syndrome. Sometimes even more so. But, unfortunately there is a stigma to mental illness that doesn't transfer to any other condition.

Mental illness means you are weak, pathetic, stupid, lazy or violent. Mental illness makes you less than a person and more of an object of scorn. People who commit suicide are selfish. Cops, soldiers and others with PTSD are not to be trusted. They could snap at any minute.

Isn't it incredible that you can break your leg and people will support you, open doors for you, run errands for you, but break your mind, and your world empties of people you thought loved and cared for you.

How many times have you heard, "Snap out of it; get some exercise; quit feeling sorry for yourself; if you really wanted to (______) you would, you're just lazy"?


We would never dream of saying these things to an Autistic, blind or deaf person, but feel it is justified in attacking the mentally ill. I often wondered why? Is it something they think is contagious? Does it make them feel superior that they have never suffered from a 'weak mind'? Or is it coming from a place of anger where they feel the person struggling with this is seeking attention?

And on the contrary, people with a mental illness have a strong mind. A very strong mind that is trying to protect them and keep them whole. There is no weakness with mental illness except for those that use it as a crutch. And yup, they exist. Just like some people with disabilities use it as a crutch for why they cannot perform their job. They exist as well. Fortunately, those people are in a very tiny minority.
So, on this mental illness let's talk and be friends day, I say share embrace your pain, accept your darkness, live in the moment. If you feel like crap, accept it. Think about it mindfully for five minutes. Really feel what it is like to be you, instead of trying to smile and put up with it. And then, after five minutes of examining your emotions, tell yourself, "I accept this about me and I am still a good person. I will do everything I can, regardless of my demons because I get to win."

Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Meteroite Strikes

Wow, another world wind of a week, month, life. I know we all deal with problems and we all feel alone when we are in the midst of anything troubling in our lives. The past couple of weeks has been no exception to this for me and my family.

We struggle with mental illness. At some point you will meet someone, love someone, give birth to someone, parent someone have parents, brothers, sisters, in-laws etc, with a mental illness or a multitude of mental illnesses. Life doesn't stop and you do not get a do over card. The line has been crossed from normal, everyday life to crisis in all of a few moments.

How do you respond? I know as a parent, I did not do well for a multitude of reasons, my own state of mind, my own physical illness and lack of energy, and just having enough to deal with on a day to day basis by having three children within a three year life span. All you moms out there are nodding your heads. You get it. You work full time, have three kids you love beyond reason, you may be struggling with depression and Fibromyalgia as I was, plus you still have a home to run, appointments to get to, school work to monitor and teach (more about that later), family commitments, trying to sell a house and BOOM.....one child struggles and starts acting out, another threatens to run away from home and the third is dealing with his own hell because of Autism.

It was a low, low point in my life. I struggled with anger, frustration, compassion, and right back to anger again. My husband and I both came from abusive backgrounds in our childhoods. Mine more so than his, although abuse is abuse and the effects never go away. Ever.

When we met, we swore if we had kids we would treat them with respect and love and teach them values and have open communication with them. And we did. We had the family suppers (my husband rarely had experience with that growing up), I walked the kids to and from school four times a day, made lunches, and we talked, we had love and hope and things seemed normal. At least to me. We struggled with money (who doesn't) but we never tried to let that affect the kids. We gave them what we could. I took up knitting and sewing to save on clothes. Our house was the house in the neighbourhood that was always filled with kids. We had enormous sleepovers and friends coming through and I thought it was fine. Except it wasn't. I had no idea the the normal teenage hormones and moodiness was not normal, but actually depression. I misread the signs. I thought the acting out, the over sensitiveness, the temper tantrums were a normal reaction to what was going on in the teenage body.

At the same time, the kids grew more distant and relied on their peers for guidance and advice and turned away from us, as parents. Wow, did that hurt. And nope, I did not see that coming. I was under the misguided impression that if you raised your kids right, showed them love and respect, that everything would turn out great. I know from my own childhood of severe, daily chronic abuse, lies, deceit and humiliation, that that was not the way to raise healthy people. So I fought my own demons, while trying to raise our children in a healthy manner. That is where the anger kicked in. Our children had a family that loved and respected them and still it was not enough. Where did I fail? How did I not see the inevitable train wreck that was in the forefront all the time? How did I miss the one moment that could have changed a loving family into one that wasn't speaking to each other? Where was the village to help me raise my child?

The schools offered no help whatsoever. Neither did the psychiatric profession, when we were finally able to access their services. And the police were the catalyst that got my son into a treatment facility. That went okay for about a minute. And then life just spiralled out of control. My depression came back a thousand fold. I could not help myself or my children and I felt like a complete idiot for not knowing what the next step was, or even where to find the damn portal to the next step. I was angry, frustrated, sad, disappointed and deeply hurt.

My husband turned to silence. It was the only way to reign in the anger, because if he spoke, he would lose it. So, instead of causing further damage and for fear of having our children run away from home, we walked on eggshells around each other and them. We hardly spoke, I cried every single night trying to rack my brain on how to fix THIS. But, there was no fix. There was no amount of talking, therapy, medication or intervention that helped. All there was, was time. Awkward, angry, stress filled time that lead to more damage and more ruined moments.

Jump ahead three decades and we are right back to that spot. My granddaughter deals with depression and suicidal ideation, and I feel like I have learned nothing, and I feel like I will never have a normal, happy life. It's all one big train wreck waiting to happen all over again.

The anger came back, the fear, the frustration. I have always said I have wanted to run away more times as an adult than I ever did growing up. And I thought about that daily.

We, as a society have failed miserably over the past four decades at raising strong, healthy people. Our mental health system is a failure. Our Justice system is a failure. And our medical system is a failure, and our education system is a failure. Not to mention our own families.

Growing up in a small town or village, everyone knows everyone else's business. We were like that growing up on military bases living in PMQ's (Personnel Married Quarters). It was our insulation from the world. We had an entire community looking after our kids. And then the PMQ's were sold and became privatized. One connection and link that brought everyone together was now severed.

We moved into civilian life. We went from a social support system to a place where no one knew who we were or cared. The schools placed more work on us by having our already strained times together now a battle field where we, as the parents were expected to teach our children what the schools did not have the time or the resources to teach. Guess what? We didn't either. We neither had the skills or the education to teach what our kids needed to know.

The mental health system could not fix our problems because the acting out and threatening to run away was not a priority for them. And it took months to get any kind of help. By that time the damage had already been done. We did not have grand parents or aunts and uncles to help. We did not have the school support, and now mental health services was no option. What little they did provide did nothing to help the brokenness we had become.

The inevitable happened and things became so much worse. Our children derailed. And I felt like a trauma surgeon in the desert using string and gum to stop the hemmoraging while another patient lay dying on the next table. I felt like the universe was one colossal joke right from the start.

BAM, here have a severley abusive stepfather and helpless, non-existent mother. BAM, get torn from your native land and move to a foreign country, lose your native language, learn English and forget about your culture and lose all your family back home. BAM, deal with severe sexual childhood abuse from the age of three to 18, and have zero support or help, but maintain your grades and keep that smile on your face or the beatings will continue. Run away from home at 17. BAM, here now you are pregnant at 20 (by choice) but now this is going to kick in your fear, flight and fight response into overdrive because of said childhood, but you had no idea this was going to happen. BAM, have a mental illness that you cannot climb out of for any amount of want or wishing. BAM, throw in a military move to the very community where your abusive parents live and they want access to your little girl. BAM, throw in severe post partum depression following the third child.

Life coasted until the kids hit puberty, then the meterites struck once more. BAM, your child is Autistic and will never be a fully functional adult. BAM, your other child has severe ADHD and we cannot help him. BAM, your third child is going through PUBERTY FROM HELL, but carry on. BAM, one of your children is being beat by their partner. BAM, have fibromyalgia, BAM, teenage pregnancy, BAM another teenage pregnancy, BAM, have another child turn to alcohol and become self destructive. BAM, lose your job.......coast....BAM have a brian aneurysm. BAM, son is now in an abusive situation with his partner......BAM, raise two more children after thinking this was your time togeher with your husband......it never ended.

I fought every single day for myself, my children, my marriage and my sanity. I was rushing from one fire to another, one trauma to another, and I felt I was doing it on my own. There was no outside intervention for me. My child who was being abused by their partner was told to have a restraining order. We all know how that works. It doesn't. Every two hours, another women is murdered while having a restraining order in her purse. Every two hours. Around the clock. Thankfully, my child survived that horrendous ordeal. But then my son was in an abusive relationship. He fixed that after years of trying, to no avail, to fix her and himself. Countless hours and time we would have one or both crying on our couch, at the same time they were going through therapy. The marriage ended. He moved on. But he also moveed onto another abusive relationship. I lost him three years ago.

Now, here today we struggle with a 15 year old who wants to die. And it kills me. Every square inch of my body feels like it has been scraped raw with a serrated knife. But something positive has happened. I have learned a lot in the past five decades. I have studied and taken courses and worked with mental health issues to help others. And while I am tentaivley hopeful, I am not 100% safe. I do not think I will ever be safe. Or have a life where I wake up and feel, hey this is okay. It finally took the help of medical science and natural drugs to get to a point where I am no longer depressed on a daily basis, but that was a short lived, three month reprieve. With this new generation of mental illness, I am not depressed, but merely surviving. And waiting.

I talk with my grandchild. Give her coping skills I never had to give to my children, and she is staying with us. We have metnal health intervention...in a month. Wow, nothing has changed. And I hang on by my fingernails waiting for the next meteor to strike.

A few things are different. I am much older and much more tired. I am much stronger. I have many more skills. But I wonder if this will ever become the fairy tale life I envisioned. I am beginnig to lose hope. I think my fairy Godmother is drunk, or on Meth. My Guardian Angels are watching movies and binge drinking, and the Universe has told me, quite plainly, that this will be as good as it gets. The good things are my amazing husband, my dogs, I am employed, I have a house, I have food.   And I need to remind myself every single moment to never lose sight f the important things in your life. Your love, your kindness, your compassion.

The other side of this though, is the impact on my work/life balance. Because I need to be so hyper vigilant and sensitive at home, at work, I do not have the pateinve to deal with issues and problems in the workplace. I struggle. I do not suffer fools in the workplace. Or excuses, or laziness. I have zero patience for stupidity or endless reasons about why you cannot finish a project on time, on budget and on scope. My life at home leeches into work and I am all out of spoons. I know I need to get a grip on that, and I fight every single day not to give in the "What the hell is wrong with you" speech that I say it in my head.

Fortunatley I had the amazing opportunity to take a course about difficult conversations. It was an incredible experience and will give me more tools to reign in the monster that demands perfection at work, but more so, it gives me the skills to adress important issues without resorting to violence. No, not the stabby kind of violence, but the violence as in sarcasm, frustration, abrasiveness, and low tolerance for bad behaviour. Instead, it allows me to speak to individuals about issues I see, and about accountability.

This is a real coup. Because of the way I was raised, I can smell BS a mile away. I can see behaviours that others write off as benefit of the doubt. I can read the body language of manipulation and, hopefully now have a way to adress it without the other person resorting to the coping skills of their childhood. The benefit of this course is you are the only one that needs to take this in order for it to work. And I think this will pay off in spades. I used it with my grandchild. I will use it at work, and I use it in my practise with trauma survivors.

All I know is we are all alone. We may think we are together and have support systems in place, but in the grand scheme of things I have learned we are born alone, we live with mental illness alone and we will die alone.

Today, I am okay with that.

Peace