My latest blog posts have depicted my recent difficulty with seeing light in the world – again. These dark ‘slumps’, (really the word slump does not do these experiences justice – but I will use it for ease of relating to all – we all have slumps – they suck – you get the point), fool me into thinking that the universe that takes care of me even in my darkest hours has abandoned me…and abandoned everyone else as well. Days go by as I agonize through the mundane and torturous seconds of hopelessness, tossing and turning between anger, guilt and remorse, until finally…FINALLY, the universe peeks its little universe head through the darkness and says, “Sorry I’ve been out of sight for a while, but wait until you see what I have in store for your now!”
I talk to the universe a lot…literally. I look up to the sky and say, “Ok universe, show me the way”, and it always does – ALWAYS. This time it spoke to me through a text message from a friend named Matt Henegan, who is also a paramedic with PTSD. This is what he said:
“Here’s the thing, and take it with a grain of salt, as I am not here to undo anything; you’re allowed to hate the world. You’ve experienced it. The good. The bad. And the indescribably ugly. The world is easy to hate. What’s important, is to not live in this world WITH hate leading us..”
Truer words were never spoken. I was leading my days with hate over the last little while because of some unfortunate circumstances – one being that I have sadly learned that Luci my service dog is not a good fit for my home. She bit Walter (food aggression) and the sights and sounds of this experience triggered PTSD reflexes/reactions and have forced me to make sure that that never happens again. My family and I are devastated, and still recovering from this realization, but I know that she will find a home that is best for her. I love her and I will miss her. (* I will be donating the remainder of my Go Fund Me money to the amazing trainers at Grassroots K9 who so generously worked with Luci and I for many months. I still highly recommend them – sometimes things happen that no one can foresee.)
Leading my days with hate, self pity and anger only hurts me and everyone around me more. These emotions are an express-pass to the depression rollercoaster that always makes me vomit. This pass swiftly buckles me in for ‘the ride’ and rockets me into twists and turns that cause me to be disoriented and sick – very sick. I inevitably stumble off the ride when it’s over with my clothes disheveled and no memory of when it really even began. I hate this ride…and I’m naive to think that I won’t ever find myself on it again.
Thank you Matt for your friendship. I know that your words will help many more than just me.
*You can find Matt’s own blog documenting his battle with PTSD at http://amedicsmind.blogspot.ca/2017/03/a-mans-eyes.html He is one of the most amazing writers I have ever come across!
The other night while I was getting ready to go to a Gala, my 10 year old son asked me a question that made me realize how much my behaviour when I was drinking still affects him deeply. While doing my make-up, I wasn’t thinking anything about the topic of alcohol because after a lot of hard work and dedication the obsession it caused has been removed from me, so I was shocked to hear my son ask, “Mom, what would you do if someone gave you a drink?” I could tell that he was trying to make the question seem casual and not significant, but when I looked at him I could see the seriousness in his eyes.
So at that moment I had two ways of answering the question. I could a) laugh and say ‘oh don’t be silly that won’t happen’, or b) take the time to answer his question honestly and clearly. I suppose the reason for this blog is to sincerely express how important it is for all parents in this situation to choose option b. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the past year and a half of recovery, is that my old belief of hiding my emotions from my kids and avoiding answering serious questions, never helped them at all. In fact, it hurt them.
When I came home from the Homewood Rehabilitation Centre, I was still only allowed supervised visits with my son, and my daughter who was 17 at the time was still very hurt, afraid and distant. Thankfully, I learned how important honesty was when I was away, and I slowly put that into practice when my kids became comfortable enough to ask me questions. I was especially happy to see how well this ‘be vulnerable and honest’ way of life worked when I was having a sad day and my daughter heard me crying in my room, and came in and asked if I was ok. The old me would have lied and said, ‘I’m fine don’t worry’, and then would have changed the subject to some completely unimportant topic thinking that this would ‘protect them’ from pain. I was SO wrong…THIS way of answering only fuels our kid’s worries. They KNOW when we aren’t ok, and pretending we are only confuses them, and encourages them to practice the same behaviour when they are sad.
So on this particular day I decided to tell the truth. I didn’t get into a huge discussion, I simply said, ‘I’m just having a sad day because I miss someone, but I will be ok.’ Honest, to the point, and obviously EFFECTIVE, because she lovingly looked at me and said ‘ok’, told me that if I needed anything to let her know, and then proceeded to laugh and giggle with her little brother downstairs. I was shocked at first! I thought that by showing my vulnerability my daughter would think that I was weak. But the opposite happened! She saw that I was HUMAN, was satisfied with the answer I gave her because it was the TRUTH, and therefore no longer needed to worry. It was a life changing moment…for all of us.
I practice honesty all the time now, just like I did the night that my son asked me the question about what would I do if someone gave me a drink. I took the extra moment to look at him and replied,’I would say no thank you to the person and get another Perrier’. And like I had expected, that was all he needed to hear. And in this particular case, he KNEW it was the truth because anyone who knows me now, knows how I do love my Perrier! 😀
As a follow up piece to my blog “Meditation 101”, (https://paramedicnatsmentalhealthjourney.com/2015/06/30/meditation-101-give-it-a-try/) I thought I would share some more tips which I have learned along my spiritual journey with regards to improving meditation outcomes.
Tip 1. Let the meditation do the work for you, and simply enjoy what emerges. Most complications in early meditation practice come from having expectations as to what meditation should feel like. Yes it’s great to be educated on the wonderful sensations you can receive while clearing your mind, but if you go into a meditation expecting to have a specific result, you will most likely be disappointed. The key is to relax, enjoy and have no expectations. .
Tip 2. Stop trying to be an expert at meditation. You know the goal of meditation is to clear your mind and open blocked spiritual pathways, but stop getting frustrated when your mind is busy and it’s difficult to relax. This is the one time not trying so hard actually leads to success.
Tip 3. Allow your mind to explore a larger perspective. Let your breathing take you where it may! When a thought comes to mind, accept it, then let it go. Don’t fight it. Focusing on an end result of your meditation will force your mind to close off and in return shrinks your perspective.
Tip 4. Be happy with your efforts. Results such as deeper relaxation and improved daily mindfulness will come your way, but only if you don’t put pressure on yourself to reap the rewards right away. Be happy with even 2 minutes of deep breathing. What a wonderful gift to give yourself!
Here are a few more of my favourite guided mediations 🙂
Remember that whatever time you can put aside to meditate is good enough! Stop your expectations, and just breathe. <3
Change can be terrifying and very uncomfortable. So much so that many of us would rather live our lives in our ‘life-pajamas’ day after day, snuggled up on the couch watching our lives pass us by like a movie. Don’t get me wrong, life-pajamas are super awesome on those rainy, cold, dreary days we all have. But if we notice that our life-laundry is piling up, and all it’s filled with are pajamas, we may need to try on something different…for a change. Fear of the unknown can keep us from achieving so many successes, and also from equally as important failures we so desperately need to learn from. When we are stagnant because of our fear of change we block ourselves from getting dressed for life, and truly living.
What I’m trying to get at is that I have been very afraid of a certain change in my life…but making it or not has now become a matter of life or death. The change I am talking about is my co-dependent relationship with my daughter. I have known that our dependency on one another has always been extreme, but guilt with regards to things and people she has missed out on in her childhood has overridden my ability to really wear the mom-pants effectively. My rule-making sucks! And my follow through is even worse! I am the queen of turning a blind eye to the dishes that were suppose to go in the sink. I’d rather not argue about the extra half hour of TV before bed. Laundry on the floor right beside the laundry basket takes me only two seconds to pick up. And the X-box…what X-box? What I thought was being a cool mom was actually not cool at all, and I’ve let my children run around in their life-pajamas way too long!
To be honest I have parented out of guilt for all of my mothering years to some extent. But living with the guilt of making your children wonder when they would come home to find their mom dead, is a guilt-inducing traumatic event that’s very difficult to move past. So when I came home from Homewood as a guilt-riddled, barely-even-worthy-of-being-a-mom, woman, our house became even more carefree. My son missed and worried about me so much that my guilt convinced me to let him watch Full House until the wee hours of the night and eventually to fall asleep in my bed. And when my daughter started to duplicate my depressive behaviours, rather than encouraging healthy coping skills at all times, my guilt told me to be at her beck and call and to watch her like AB and Ian watched me. I had offered her all of the precious tools in the palm of my hands…but I rarely reinforced them. My guilt tricked me into thinking that any tough-love would backfire on me. It told me that if I enforced house rules they would rebel because ‘how dare I’ suddenly start to act like a mother after what I had put them through. Even though my gut told me that being too easy on them would eventually cause a tornado of confusion and angst, guilt was always so cunning that it seemed to win day after day.
Then the tornado hit! I won’t go into details as this tornado story is for my daughter to tell. But I will say that it was an F5…and I almost lost her.
The destruction this tornado left could have been dealt with in one of two ways. Option one would have been for all of us to snuggle back into our comfy life-pajamas and pretend like nothing happened and that change wasn’t needed. Or I could FINALLY give my head a shake! FINALLY realize that what my kids NEED is a mom who provides solid structure, and FINALLY stop sewing patches over the holes made from too much comfort. I KNOW that change is good…I’ve been reaping the rewards of it for 11 months now. But now it’s time for me to lovingly enforce change in my children’s habit’s and lackadaisical life-style as well. They may not like that I’ve ‘remembered’ there’s an X-box in the house, or that I deserve and need time to myself, but they will eventually get use to the change and appreciate it, just like I did.
Our tattered and torn life-pajamas got blown away in a tornado, never to be found again. And I’m grateful beyond words that it was only our pajama’s that we lost.
I am so excited to announce my upcoming event!
Join me and special guest Vince Savoia (Founder of the Tema Conter Memorial Trust) for an evening of mental health awareness, and recovery celebration.
The semi-formal evening will include a presentation documenting my mental health’s journey of happiness, sorrow and hope, followed by refreshments and mingling among fellow mental health advocates and organizations.
200 Tickets Available ~ Order Yours Now!