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My ex-husband showed up drunk at his Christmas with our kids. It really, really sucked. I have three kids; one cried and yelled, one would not acknowledge him, and one disappeared until things calmed down. Something in me broke.

I have spent years protecting both him and our kids, in order to keep his healing journey safe, and so as not to embarrass or expose my kids. While I believe I did the right thing for the kids’ sake, I also ignored that I am part of this life experience too, and it is part of my story. Does it need to be public? No, it doesn’t, but in my life purpose of helping others, my experiences can bring meaning, help and hope to others. This is part of my story and I should be able to share it as such.

Pain comes in many forms. Watching my kids that night propelled my pain to a whole new level. There was nothing I could do to make any part of it okay, because it simply wasn’t. We were able to salvage some of the evening, but when I went to bed that night, I was shattered. Do I understand why his drinking has escalated over the past year? I sure do. Does that mean I turn a blind eye to its effect on others? A resounding NO.

Some lessons from that sh** show night:

  1. I realized a couple of ways I’ve been enabling bad behaviour.
  2. My kids (all teenagers) still need me to be their safe place, and to provide a safe place. While I fully recognize I have done a great job, for the most part, this showing up drunk thing is fairly new water to navigate.
  3. It reminded me that I’m not always strong, and that’s okay. I have a reputation for being kind, compassionate and resilient, but there are just some crappy moments that I’m allowed to be upset about. If I don’t handle it perfectly, I will still survive. One of my greatest fears is falling apart and not being able to support my kids’ emotions through the traumas they’ve been repeatedly exposed to.
  4. I am not alone. I know that, but I sure felt alone that night. It’s the holidays, who wants to ruin someone else’s Christmas?! When I woke up the next morning, I reached out to a friend. I vented, she listened, we talked, and I hung up feeling like I could carry on.
  5. I can change how I do things, I can still be kind and compassionate while drawing strong lines and boundaries for my own mental health, so my job as the mom isn’t derailed. After all, if I’m not okay and don’t take care of myself, I am not teaching my kids how to navigate the deep, dark waters of life either.

Simply put, what I allow is what will continue.

My wish for you and for me is that we will take time during what can be a difficult season to reflect on who we are, how far we’ve come, and how the challenges we face give us the opportunity to become bitter or better.

 

Week two of this thing I call an “adventure” is over. Good riddance.

The Good (Finding Joy)

  • Second ultrasound to verify abnormalities came back clean!
  • I was able to spend time with a dear friend, whom I call a lifer. She is one of those people I can’t imagine my life without. She brings me joy, just by being her.
  • I got to wear an ugly Christmas sweater for my first ever ugly sweater event.
  • I journalled.
  • I am thankful for all the positive feedback from people who say this journey is an inspiration to them to take their small steps. I am also grateful to the Board for their support. I told them I’d likely not be doing this without it.

The Bad (My Week)

  • A 911 call left me completely exhausted after having to deal with it. It wasn’t for me, all is well, for now.
  • A cortisone shot (jeez this aging thing…) in my shoulder has left me in more pain. It will get better, I’m told, and I will know in late January whether surgery will be required.
  • A sick day in bed, rare for me and frustrating, to say the least.
  • A debilitating migraine while visiting my friend made me angry. I haven’t had one in a long time, and it had to pick this past weekend.

The Ugly (True Confessions)

In my quest to be transparent and share the good, the bad and the ugly with you, last week was pretty much a write off as far as activity went. I had improved food days and a completely indulgent one, but I can’t say I made any progress at all.

Are the events of the week my excuses, the ones I said I would remove? I’m not considering them as such, rightly or wrongly. It was an extreme week and I am giving myself permission for a do-over. Anyone who knows me knows how hard it is for me to do that. Letting go of self-criticism is a tough one for many of us, I’m guessing.

So here’s me, asking for a do-over.

 

One of the interesting articles I came across last week is something I will explore too, besides my commitments from last week. I know how sluggish I feel when I’m not eating properly, but the new research about how our gut parallels our brain functionality is intriguing, to say the least.

This Success Magazine article gives some tips on how to reset your day. They’re worth considering!

  • Complete the sentence, I’ll feel better when…
  • List three things that are in your control to change right now.
  • Listen to an uplifting song. My all-time favourite is Footloose :).

  • Watch a funny video.
  • Look at pictures from your favorite vacation.

Recap of last week’s commitments…

I will:

  • Continue to track my food/beverage intake and eliminate bed time eating, except popcorn on Friday night :).
  • Continue sit-ups: 20/day this week.
  • Walk: minimum of three walks, whether outdoor or doing a mall walk if it’s too cold. No excuses. I actually had a friend offer to make those our phone call connection times, if it means it will help me get it done.
  • Begin to journal again, daily, free form. All that means is I’ll journal my thoughts as they come out, no editing or thinking too much. You in to try it? It could be three minutes or thirty, again it’s about actually doing it, not doing it perfectly. A friend gave me The 5-Minute Journal a year or so ago. I started it, but it quickly fell by the wayside. I will explore that as a begin-again possibility.

Instead of offering ideas of what you can do, I would appreciate hearing what you are doing to takes those  small steps toward healing and wholeness. You can comment below, and you are also invited to join our closed Facebook group, to share your thoughts, ideas and progress.

Huge thanks to all those who are in my corner, rooting me on! Next week’s report will be better.

 The eye-opening documentary film ‘Victor Walk’ will make its Calgary debut at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium on June 2, 2017, raising funds for local non-profit.

Local non-profit, Breaking Free Foundation (BFF) is pleased to host the Calgary premiere of the eye-opening documentary, ‘Victor Walk’, at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium on June 2, 2017. The documentary follows Calgary Flames legend, Theo Fleury and his team on the inaugural Victor Walk back in 2013, where they walked from Toronto to Ottawa to raise awareness on the epidemic of childhood rape.

Since 2013, Fleury and the Breaking Free Foundation have led two provincial Victor Walks in Alberta and Manitoba, and the team will be heading to Saskatchewan this July for the 2017 Victor Walk.

In Canada, one in two girls and one in three boys falls victim to unwanted sexual advances before the age of 18, which is why this film is an important awareness tool.

The event is also serving as a fundraiser for the non-profit, founded by Fleury and six other Calgarians in 2015. All of the proceeds from the June 2 premiere will go towards funding the organization’s work for trauma survivors in Alberta.

The money raised is vital to keeping their innovative Therapy Grant Program running,which provides free trauma therapy to Albertans suffering from PTSD, mental health issues and the lingering effects of trauma.

Tickets are available online at Ticketmaster, with exclusive VIP packages available. The evening will be full of surprises including exclusive Victor Walk merchandise, photo opportunities with Theo Fleury, meet and greet with BFF and a special performance by Theo Fleury and the Death Valley Rebels following the screening.

The Victor Walk Documentary premiere is June 2, 2017 at 7pm at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium (1415 – 14 Avenue NW). Tickets available online at Ticketmaster on 10:00 AM on Wednesday, March 8th.

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January is a very exciting month for the Breaking Free Foundation, not just because we’re looking ahead at all the great things to come in 2016, but because we welcomed a new member to the BFF family—Shandra Carlson. Shandra joins our team in the official capacity of Foundation Administrator, and since you’ll be seeing more of her, we wanted to give you a little insight on who she is.

Here’s our Q&A with Shandra:

Q: What attracted you to BFF? 
A: I first heard about BFF as a result of the Victor Walk that started a couple years ago. Truthfully I think what attracted me about both the Walk and BFF is having observed Theo Fleury over the past few years. He has worked hard on his own ‘stuff’, he’s been transparent with his process and his desire to help others work through their own trauma makes it easy to want to participate and support the cause.

Q: What are you most excited to be a part of with the BFF team? 
A: What excites me is to be a part of a team, a group of individuals with a heartfelt focus on assisting people in their healing process. One of my favourite sayings is, “No one of us has it all together, but all of us together, have it all.” Not one of us has overcome our challenges without the involvement of others. We can’t do life alone, and it’s a wonderful thing to be part of an organization that truly wants to support healing, not just coping.

Q: What’s the most important thing you think people should understand about trauma? 
A: One of the keys I think, is to recognize that each of us processes life differently and therefore, each of us experiences and processes trauma individually. There is no pat answer when it comes to healing, what works for one may not work for another. I think sometimes we humans have a tendency to think if we find and apply a formula it should just work. As unique as our fingerprints are, is as unique as working through our trauma is.

Q: What’s something you learned about BFF after you joined the team? 
A: One of the first things I learned was how dedicated the team is to finding ways to connect people to one another in order to initiate the healing journey for our grant applicants. I also learned that we have a long way to go in bringing mental health to the forefront of the healthcare system, primarily the premise that if our minds are healthy and strong, it will automatically cause a ripple effect in experiencing healthy bodies, relationships and lives. The brain is a many splendored and complex thing that impacts every part of who we are!

Q: How do you like to spend your spare time?
A: I saw a cartoon recently that made me laugh, it read, “It always makes me uncomfortable when people ask me what my hobbies are…I mean, what do they want? I’m a mother. I enjoy trips to the bathroom alone, naps and silence.” I’m still looking forward to that moment when a trip to the bathroom isn’t met by banging on the door – and my kids are teenagers!  I do love to read, and write, and my friends. I describe coffee as my comfort food, and anything personal development related usually gets my attention. I’m a bit of an adventurer too and my motto is, “live now, never wait.” Whitewater rafting has to be one of my all-time favourite experiences, especially at Kicking Horse. Can chocolate be described as a hobby? Watching a good hockey game is in my DNA as well!

Q: What gets you up and excited in the morning?
A: My cat usually gets me up in the morning, but what gets me excited is my first cup of coffee. Seriously though, watching people come fully alive is where my happy place is. What I mean by that is, when I’m able to participate in a discussion or work through a situation with someone and they have that light bulb moment, that’s what stirs me. I am a lifer when it comes to learning, so when I have the opportunity to discover something new, that also gets me excited.

Q: A perfect day to you, looks like what? 
A: Depends on the day! I never dreamed I’d call myself a morning person, but now that my kids are older and stay up later, my 5:30 am start gives me the alone time I require to support my sanity. On weekdays I am happiest when I get to be there as my kids get ready and leave for school. Starting their days off on a positive note – and making sure they take their lunches – sounds simple, but it gets my day off to a great start as well. I really am pretty simple when it comes to describing a perfect day. If I get to watch a sunrise or a sunset, see the mountains on a clear day or stare up at the stars, I feel like I’ve been given a rare gift. Adding swimming with dolphins or sea turtles to my adventures would describe a pretty perfect day as well!

We are thrilled to have Shandra a part of the BFF team! You can check out the rest of the BFF family here.

 

 

 

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In my past life I was a counsellor at an organization that provided support for women and children who were experiencing homelessness, poverty and family violence. It took me a long time to recognize that I was dealing with unacknowledged trauma of my own. In May of 2014 I made the decision to leave the organization where I had worked for eight years. It was painful to leave the colleagues I loved, but I realized that it was time to find a new place to shine. To my great surprise, immediately after I made this decision and seemingly out of nowhere I was pulled into dealing with my own trauma that had gone for so long unacknowledged. It was as though my body was waiting for me to be still and then it said, “We have to deal with this.”

I finally had to acknowledge that as a little girl I was sexually assaulted by someone that I really loved. I will never forget the pain. I could feel that my little body was bending and straining against itself in a way that was never intended. Part of the assault was witnessed by an adult I loved and trusted, who chose to do nothing.

I was so heartbroken and confused that I buried my pain and shame deep in my heart and tried not to think about it. As someone who worked for many years with children and families who had experienced suffering, I know it seems ridiculous that I didn’t ever acknowledge my own. I was completely unprepared for the debilitating despair, shame, fear and anxiety that overwhelmed me as I tried to confront this experience. The numbness and sense of deep unworthiness that I carried my whole life now made complete sense. I now recognise that there is no area of my life (physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual and mental) that this experience has not distorted.

I was cut off from spiritual resources during the first steps of this journey because I was raised in a loving but unhealthy family that participated in a very spiritually abusive cult for a time. I had completely rejected any spiritual connections as adult, so I was startled to establish a loving attachment to the Divine Feminine – I call her “Maman”, the French word for mother.  (The Over the Moon community has been so influential during this process – thank you).

I have been reflecting on many different aspects of the healing journey. For years I witnessed it and indeed facilitated it in others. Now I am experiencing it and of course, that is very different. I don’t have easy answers. What I am hoping is that by being open and honest with my experiences, some of the things that I have been discovering in this darkness might resonate with other women.

I am in therapy with a very skilled, gentle and feminine counsellor who has an extensive background in treating sexual trauma. Still, that has been exhausting and overwhelming. I wonder if it is like going to cancer treatment – you really hope that it is working, because the treatment itself is so painful.

Things that have unexpectedly been helpful and meaningful are exploring art and literature and reconnecting to the Divine Feminine. The last one may seem obvious, but as someone who had been in a patriarchal and abusive cult, it was a very big discovery for me.

I love to reflect on the special, ordinary things that come up throughout my day – sometimes a little meditation on a poem or a piece of art. I am also very interested in the stories of my French mother and grandmother. Healing my spiritual feminine lineage has become very important to me on my journey. In my years of working with people who had experienced trauma, we constantly recognized the importance of art, stories, dance, music, play and expression in healing. Now I am experiencing this for myself, and I know it is true. For years, I feared my body – large tracts of it were frozen and inhabiting it felt like living in a haunted house. To my surprise, she has turned out to be a wise and gentle friend, who remembers everything and never lies to me.

Thank you so much for listening to my story. I know that I have a long way to go on my journey. But I feel grateful to look back and acknowledge that there has been some progress after all, and that I found love in all kinds of dark, unexpected places.

— Written by Claire Anderson
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Are you interested in sharing your story, or experience breaking free from trauma? Please contact us to guest blog. To continue the conversation about trauma, please follow us on Twitter or Facebook.