Working Through Anxiety


I have it and always have. I remember getting migraines as a child brought on by anxiety when my parents were screaming at each other nearly every weekend. I’d complain that my head hurt (it really did) and was taken to the eye doctor, the regular doctor and various specialists. I had all sorts of tests done and in the end my parents were told that I ‘just wanted attention’ and was making it all up.

This was the 1970’s; no one thought to look into the social dynamics of my dysfunctional family and ask questions and if they had I wouldn’t have said a word, anyway, for fear of being beaten within an inch of my life. One of my father’s favourite threats was: “I’m gonna knock your teeth out!” English not being his first language, it came out: “teet” rather than “teeth”. I’ve never forgotten that and he’s been dead 28-years.

That was my childhood. As I got older, anxiety lead to panic attacks but surprisingly not until I was an adult. I didn’t have them often but when I did, it was full blown I-think-I’m-having-a-heart-attack episodes. If you’ve ever experienced a panic attack, you’ll know what I mean: difficulty breathing and catching your breath, pain in your chest, shaking, sweating and feelings of utter chaos. Your heart races and your mind keeps up; they end up doing endless 100-meter laps with your thoughts in tow until you’re able to release it and start to calm down.

It doesn’t last forever, but when you’re in the thick of it, it seems you’re either going to pass out, whither and die on the spot, or explode.

Although it’s been a few years since I had a heart-racing panic-attack (the last time was when Brian took his life) I’ve had other anxiety-related issues: lack of sleep, terrible dreams, worry to the point of being ridiculous and being very irritable.

So what’s the magic formula? How does one cope with the escalating madness in the world – both in your own and on the outside where you have little to no control? How do you handle stress from work, family – demands upon your time, illnesses, finances and then contend with our Southern neighbours worst mass murder in their history?

If you’re sensitive like me, and are prone to anxiousness, it’s no easy feat.

You may find that people around you tell you to: calm down/get over it/take it easy/relax etc. None of these help, by the way, but there are a few things you can do for yourself.

  1. Breathe. Concentrating on just breathing keeps you grounded in the moment and helps calm you in the gentlest way.
  2. Take a walk in nature. The energy of plants and water is incredibly calming and healing. Make sure you are by yourself and with no distractions and simply ‘be’ with the beauty. The forests, oceans, fields, rivers and lakes have amazing healing energy. You’ll understand better when you immerse yourself in it.
  3. Pets and animals. If you have a pet or two, spend some time with Fluffy. Animals are very psychic and pick up on our emotions. You may have noticed that when you’re feeling down or anxious, the family pet seems to gravitate towards you with extra cuddles and affection. This isn’t a coincidence. Their energy will always help make you feel better. There’s a reason why trained animals are used as helpers. There are psychiatric service dogs, comfort pets and companion animals. All make a huge difference.

Lastly, there is professional help. Counsellors, Coaches, Psychologists and Psychiatrists are trained to help you maneuver through your anxiety with a variety of tools.

Take care of yourself and be gentle. You matter and there are people out there who ‘get it’ and understand what you’re feeling.

Young woman suffering from a severe depression/anxiety (color to

 

 

The Letter


A while ago, I took a little writing course. One of the exercises I had to do was write a letter to myself (from my future self), one that I’d read, back in time. Of course, I had to choose the most difficult day of my entire life to send this letter to: the day after Brian took his life. 
I found this exercise most powerful and healing. I will incorporate this into my Coaching sessions as I think it’s valuable to people. 
Feel free to give it a try. 

May 11, 2017

Hello me,

It’s me…

You’re reading this the day after that really bad thing happened (May 12, 2015). That’s what we (as in- you and I) ended up calling it. Sometimes we simply can’t bear to speak it out loud. It’s been two years. In fact, today is the 2nd anniversary of his death.

I know you’re in shock. I know this is the very worst thing that has every happened in your life. We both know there have been a lot of very bad things – this one tops all of them. I believe with all my heart we will never have to deal with anything this terrible, ever again. That’s a good thing because I don’t think you/we could survive it.

Right this moment, you’re torn apart and your heart just went through a rusty shredder. It’s been hurled all over the place, bits and pieces of bleeding muscle and everything is soaked in your tears. The very sky is dripping with sadness in spite of it’s perfect spring-blue. The cherry trees are still blooming and a warm west wind blows in to ripple the Pacific, but all you see is black.

I want to explain a few things to you so that eventually, you can take back something that you had so strongly before this happened: Hope.

Our love for him was enormous, vividly deep and hope was our wings; we defied everything. We felt it would carry us and him through those dark and inky days. We were wrong about that because it was never our choice. It was always his.

I need you to know that hope lives on and that this pain will ebb back into that depthless sea from which it came. Like a shadow moving through the light, it will take on many forms, grow, recede and finally it will only follow you around, a ghost, catching your attention, now and then, instead of staring you right in the face as it’s doing now – screaming that this CAN’T be true, there MUST be some sort of mistake because Brian CAN NOT be dead.

You’ll eventually come to terms with this and please know that he is here, always with you, always sending you signs and he hasn’t stopped. He won’t unless you ask him to.

I want you to understand that we made it through the fire. Oh yes, we walked right on through the centre of agony and didn’t stop. We just kept on moving forward even though it was excruciating and when we emerged, black and scorched, we turned back to look but the fire was gone. We’d used it all up, consumed it in our grief. There was nothing left but our smoking footprints to show us where we’d been.

We’d made it.

YOU, will make it. You HAVE made it and even though there are moments when you are raw again, broken apart and the tears flow like muddy rivers…you never let go of that hope. It carries you, it cradles you and now it leads you to where you’ve always needed to be.

So, cry and sob and be angry. Scream, weep softly and know you loved like you’ve never loved in your life. Remember him. Speak his name, often. He’s around and you can feel him in the stillness of the morning, just before the birdsong, moments before the first rays of dawn and seconds after the darkest part of the night.

Hello me…it’s me. Today is the first day that he’s gone – really gone… you feel as if you, too, may leave this world from your torn apart heart. You won’t. You’re still here, better than ever. Hope, your love, his love, all that brought you here and all those days yet to be born, are waiting just for you.

So…what would you say to your past self if you could send a letter from the future? 
sad woman

Why Aren’t We Teaching Children How to Manager Their Minds?


I’m taking an online introductory course in Counselling and I’m currently reading a book called: The Skilled Helper. It’s interesting. I’ve barely started and already I’ve noticed that there is something very important and fundamentally missing in our Western system: we do not teach our young how to manage their mental health. At least, not on a large scale.

We show them how to take care of their bodies through eating well and exercising. We teach them to read, write and problem solve with equations. Sometimes we send them to Church and teach them about religion and morals, but….what about how to handle a crisis? How about teaching our kids about how their emotions work and that it’s okay to talk about them? What happened to focusing on alternative ways to handle situations, emotionally?

This is why we have Coaches and Counsellers! It’s not about telling someone what to do and how to handle their life but helping them discover and identify unused resources and opportunities that they already have, such as: How to cope during an emergency, how to deal with life’s stresses, how to handle emotional pain/anger/death/grief etc.

Do they even talk about this in school? How about at home? I’m not a parent and I can tell you that when I went to school (a LONG time ago) it was never covered off, not even remotely.

Now, I did a little research and it looks like in the British Columbia, curriculum under Physical Health, this subject is touched upon, briefly. So, I’m encouraged but from what I’ve read, it’s certainly not extensive. Big topics such as: sexual identity, bullying, emotional and physical changes during puberty and managing problems related to mental health are all in there. That’s great! This is 100% better than when I was a kid, but what about the nuts and bolts of everyday life? What about how we always tell boys not to cry and to suck it up? And how media encourages girls to look ‘western’ pretty (thin/sculpted features/large breasts…you get what I’m saying. Most of them do not look like that; I didn’t and sure don’t, now. What about female role models? Has that changed much? By looking at the books with key female roles, not so much.

My 22-year old niece worshipped Barbie from 2-years old until around 8 or 9-years old. What are we telling our kids who grow up thinking Barbie is what a woman is  supposed to look like?

Our world is SO fast-paced and intellectually engaging for our young. We give them high-tech electronics practically at birth but do we ever sit down and talk about what it’s like to be sad or mad?  Or, what this growing emotional being thinks about all of that? Think about it. Emotions RUN our lives. If you believe differently, just look at the news and then come back and tell me how it made you FEEL.

I’m just saying, folks, we need to change our entire strategy. What good is having a degree in neural science, having a perfect body, being wildly successful in your career if you’re not happy on the inside?

Now, I know a few AMAZing parents who nurture their children wisely and by the time they are teenagers, I’m willing to bet they will be highly sensitive, functional and intelligent beings capable of making very good decisions. That’s not the norm, though.

So what is the answer? How do we prepare the next generation so they can help fix this world? Who is responsible? Parents? Teachers?

Everyone. What’s who. Without a group effort, this paradigm shift will not take place any time soon.

sad depressed lonely adolescent teen boy

The Aftermath of Suicide


It’s been two years to the day that the man I loved ended his life; an odd anniversary of sorts and there is still so much to say and so much that I’ve already said. I feel, sometimes, that I’m endlessly repeating myself.

So, I’ll be somewhat brief.

If you’ve known someone or loved someone who has experience with losing a person to suicide, or intimately understand what it’s like because you’ve been through it…

Be gentle. Be kind and be empathetic to those that have survived and yourself, if you – like me, have learned to live with it.

You see, that’s all you can do; live with it. You don’t get over it and you don’t forget about it just because it’s behind you. You live with the stigma of suicide around you, every day.

I’m not a grief counselor but I will become an educator. This happens so much more often than I was ever aware of and I’m guessing most people are not aware of the staggering statistics.

Why? Because we, as a society, sweep it under the carpet. It’s a dirty little secret and we talk in hushed, whispered tones, quickly looking around to make sure we are not overheard.

“Did you hear? He killed himself…”

Then, everyone not involved, goes about their daily life and tries not to think about it. Yup. We typically don’t reach out to the survivors, we don’t try and understand mental illness; we try and forget about it if it didn’t concern ourselves directly.

Before Brian, I’d never had any experience with suicide, suicide grief or had known anyone close to me who’d chosen to leave the world by their own hand. So, I can’t say that I was any different, or any more compassionate. Honestly, I can’t remember if the topic ever came up.

My point is that it’s not a fault of the individual; it’s the fault of our culture and the lack of education and understanding.

So I will become one of the educators because I really need to. I need people to understand that you can’t get over it. It lives with you, daily. It becomes a part of you and rather than reject it, I choose to embrace it.

I choose to take this experience and make something positive out of it.

Brian’s life mattered. ALL lives matter, no matter what our exit strategy is out of this world.

So please, don’t pretend it doesn’t happen. Don’t avoid the topic or whisper about it.

YELL IT OUT.

Everyone needs to know and learn about mental illness and how to help those that are suffering.

Because it can kill.

Just like cancer.

Just like any other disease known to humans.

It’s time to make this a priority and stop pretending it’s not a massive problem.

Suicide is a major cause of premature and preventable deaths.

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for people of all ages. In 2009, it ranked as the ninth leading cause of death in Canada. Among those aged 15 to 34, suicide was the second leading cause of death, preceded only by accidents (unintentional injuries).

In memory of Bri

Two Years Later


I blog a lot about Brian and how his suicide changed my life. However, this post isn’t so much about Bri, but more on how those changes have taken root and grown in the past (almost) two years.

It’s a little early as it’s two months away but the closer I get to the date, the harder it becomes, emotionally. Today, however, today I can write/talk about what’s happened in the span of almost 24 months.

Firstly, it DOES get easier. It really does. Not a lot, but I’ll take any tiny bit of peace I can get. It’s not that I still don’t think of him every day or get weepy when a song on the radio comes on that reminds me of him…but it’s a little less. I feel I’ve turned a corner on this grief and I wanted to share that with you.

If you’d met me pre-Brian and today, you’d definitely know that I’ve changed as a person – for the good and not so good.

I find that, for nice people, I’m more willing to do just about anything, should they ask. For jerks, I have zero tolerance and I tend to lose my temper, a lot. I’m mindful of my meltdowns and, for the most part, I can calm myself and not fall apart when something makes me irate.

From what I understand, this is still part of processing what happened. It’s getting less and daily meditation is helping.

I find that I’ve become an advocate, of sorts, and will not tolerate any jokes towards mental illness. I’m extremely sensitive towards people talking flippantly about suicide but I’ve also become more aware and caring as an individual. I do what I can for my fellow human and I find that I will cry, easily, over sad or touching pictures/events/videos/etc.

I FINALLY know what I want to be when I grow up! Yes, it’s taken 51 years, but better late than never, right? Had you told me I was going to be a Life Coach? I would have asked: what’s a Life Coach??

I believe in myself (my abilities) a whole bunch more, but my self-esteem still needs some work. No matter how many times my sweetheart assures me I’m NOT fat, ugly, old…(insert every female insecurity here) I have a hard time believing it’s true. Pre-Brian, I was pretty certain I was doing really well and for 49, thought I was hawt! Now, I’m not so sure how I feel about ‘me’. Part of it has to do with that Woman, whom he was still smitten with and who broke his heart (which lead to his premature demise)… and part of it has to do with getting older. Starting Menopause has not been a whole hell of a lot of fun, I can tell you that.

Two years ago, I was doing very well at my job, LOVED it, in fact, and was kinda proud of myself for doing well and being finally debt-free. I really liked myself and knew I was in a good space for a lasting relationship with the right person. I didn’t have any baggage, was saving to buy a place and felt I had a lot to offer.

Today, I’m actually financially even better off (thanks to Brian’s life insurance) but other than having a great down payment for a home and paying off the new car I bought (after I accidentally murdered the old one in a bad accident), the money means nothing to me. It’s not that I don’t appreciate it, that’s not it at all. I really do!

It’s just that money, in general, doesn’t = success/fun, any more. It’s necessary and I need/want it, but it’s just kinda there. Prior to this tragedy, had I come across a large sum of cash, I’d be planning trips and having an awesome time but maybe because I didn’t ‘earn’ this money and because of the circumstances around it, it seems like I shouldn’t spend any of it on anything other than stuff that’s necessary (car/home).

Funny story – when I went to pay off my car loan, the loan clerk looked at me and said (knowing that I’d gotten the cash from an inheritance): Congratulations!!

I just stared at her in disbelief thinking how what I’d do/give/sell (my soul??) to have Brian back. She finally figure out that this wasn’t a ‘happy’ inheritance (what ones ever are?!) and said her condolences for my loss. Idiot.

Today, I appreciate my career but believe it’s not what I’m supposed to do. Today, it’s not about feeding my bank account but feeding my soul and my urgent need to help others.

Two years ago, I ‘may’ have been a tiny bit arrogant. Today ‘humble’ is my middle name. I have a hard time NOT being empathetic to people that, in the past, I would never be. Although, if you say or imply anything bad towards Brian or mental illness (of any sort) the claws come out, quick.

They are quite sharp and lethal, I assure you.

Two years ago, I couldn’t have imagined meeting someone like Pete who is the first man in I-don’t-know-how-many-years…whom I actually BELIEVE is truly in love with me. Seriously, he adores me rotten and I don’t know how I’d be doing, now, without him – me this broken, fragile remanence of a woman.I’m surprised he stuck it out; life with me isn’t always easy.

I needed someone with really BIG LOVE to come into my life…just as Brian needed the same from me. Funny how that works, isn’t it? I helped him, even if he took his life, anyway, I think he stuck around a little while longer because he knew I loved him so VERY much.

Sometimes BIG love is enough, sometimes it isn’t.

I get it now, Spirit, thank you for that lesson.

Two years ago, if you’d told me that I’ve have my own website, little business, and be planning to completely change careers, mid-life, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Two years ago, if you’d told me that I’d come out as a Psychic Medium, I would have burst out laughing. Today, it’s just part of my everyday life.

Two years ago, just before I met Brian, I was really lonely and wondered if I’d EVER find someone to live the rest of my life with. Today, the man I love not only lives with me, but I can’t imagine a day where I wouldn’t wake up next to him. He doesn’t fill the hole that Brian left (it’s a rather large one) but, instead, fills my whole heart with love and joy. I couldn’t be more thankful for him.

Two years ago, I was just going along …living life and not really paying too much attention.

Today, I live in every moment, pay attention to everything and feel blessed for every hurt/tear/sob/scar; because without these, I wouldn’t have grown. I wouldn’t have known the plight of those who are suffering (mostly in silence) with mental illnesses and I wouldn’t have discovered what I really had in me, as a Soul, having a very HUMAN experience.

So yeah, I’m grateful…almost two years later. xosuicide7-copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes life moves on…but not really.


 

It’s coming up to two years since Brian passed away by his own hand.

TWO. Years. About a week ago, (back 24 months) we’d just met.

Some days it seems like it was yesterday and I can still hear his laugh and feel the smoothness of his skin.

Other days, I’m lost in the moment of what my life is now: established relationship, getting ready to purchase a condo, together, same job…and of course, a new little company that I’ve started on the side.

I’m now a (proper) Professional (certified) Life Coach. (happy dance!)

If I look back, I’ve come a long way since that fateful May evening but on the other hand, it still haunts me. This, more than anything, confirms that grief knows no template or order.

It simply ‘is’ there and will show up whenever it feels like it. Or…not at all. I can now go whole days without shedding a tear, but I still think of him, often. There’s all the little reminders sprinkled around my life. I think, once we move, it will get a little easier.

This event is so significant that I don’t feel I’ll ever be able to put it behind me, rather, it will accompany me on my journey – kind of like a little stone I carry around in my shoe. It hurts, but I’ve grown used to it and there are now calluses to help mitigate the ache. I think I’d miss it if it should disappear.

I hope I’m wiser. I hope this has made me a better (more kindhearted and caring) person. I pray that I never have to maneuver through this kind of hell, again. I don’t think I’d survive it. I ask that I be able to continue to help others in any way or by any means that I can. I will always advocate for mental health.

And I will forever miss him.

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