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I was raped by a trusted neighbor when I was 9 years old, on numerous occasions, over the span of a year and blocked it out for many years until I was roughly 12 years old. I was sitting in bed one day when something triggered the memories, they came flooding back to me and I was overwhelmed with fear, anger, and confusion. I told my parents who in turn then told the police, they approached the family of the teenager that did this to me and he admitted his guilt. We discussed pressing charges against the young man but were told by the police that it would probably be best if we didn’t as it would save me from an embarrassing trial as well as teasing from people within our neighborhood. That was a different day and age and that seemed, at the time, to be the best course of action. Don’t talk about it, bury it and try to forget it. Of course, we know better these days that this doesn’t work. This is where the pattern of shame and guilt took a terrible turn for me and sent me into a downward spiral.

I am now 47 years old with a wife of 20 years, 2 daughters, a wonderful home and from the outside looking in we are a picture-perfect family, so why talk about this now? It has only been in the last year that I can talk openly about my abuse without shame or the fear of judgment. I have lived 37 years hiding my true self in the shadows, putting on a happy face on the outside while feeling scared, lost and empty on this inside. We tried counselling when I was young but would you go talk about this if you were told to keep it quiet as a child? So I went on with my life burying the anger, the shame and never talking about it with anyone at any length because young men don’t talk about these things, do they? I have lived for so many years with questions of why me? Why didn’t we charge him? Why did my parents let this happen? Will I myself become a pedophile? If I have children will I rape them? Only a person that has been raped can truly understand what a depressing and hellish existence it is, minor moments of joy but then pulled back into the drowning darkness, day after day after day.

Now you will ask, “How did you cope?” Like many others I turned to alcohol from my early teen years to help escape my racing mind to give me some sort of peace, some sort of feeling of value, to feel more than…….nothing. Of course, this did not serve me well and there were many bad choices along the way that I look back at now and wish I could change. But I can’t. As I got older the question in my mind was always, “Why does this happen and how can I save the others?” Such a naive and sad view of life but that was what I lived day in and day out for years and years with no hope of change. I attended cognitive behavioral therapy, group sessions, AA meetings but nothing would stick and I was always dragged back to what I knew, what was my uncomfortable reality, until a few special events that changed my life to get me where I am today.

Of course, we all now know the story of Theo Fleury, his battle over the years with substance abuse and coming to terms with his past abuse. So one day I picked up his book Playing with Fire and it pushed me into a different way of thinking altogether. While reading the book I cried, I was angry, I was confused but the one feeling I didn’t expect to feel was,”You are not alone.” It was as if Theo’s voice was calling out to me saying we are now on this journey together and we will get through it. Sounds corny right? His words were my words, his pain was my pain, he understood, he had been there, he was still there. I was no longer alone, even if it was just words, it changed me. So I slowly started talking about my trauma, not a lot but a little here and there with friends that knew what happened and the shame was slowly lifting, I was getting stronger.

The next event was probably the biggest and most profound. I was at a function with casual friends that we had made over the years in a very large gathering and I overheard my friend say that he was worried about a neighbor and his “interest” in his young son. He said it seemed strange that he was always asking where his son was, what he was doing and if he could come over to visit, alone. Then it happened, I just said: “You need to be careful, this is not right.” He looked at me and I could tell by his face that he was asking, “What do you know, why would you have any insight?” I simply said, “This is how I was raped as a child, this is how it started.” The response was amazing, he asked more about what he should watch for and thanked me. I never felt so strong or free. It was incredible. From that moment on the weight had begun to lift and I felt a strength that I never knew.

Finally, the moment where I knew I was going to be okay: The Little Warriors Be Brave Ranch. Remember when I said I wanted the help save them all as a child? I now knew that was impossible so I asked what I could do to help those that are in need of support, that need to know they are not alone. By chance, I came across a couple items from my workplace that were given to me to donate to a charity of my choice, and of course, I chose the Ranch.

What I didn’t know was how this was going to affect me moving forward in my journey of healing. I reached out to the Ranch to arrange the drop off of these items and they were kind enough to take me on a tour and explain how they help each of these children during this terrible time. As I was leaving I cried, I was angry and then I was thankful. Thankful that there was somewhere for these children to get the help they needed, thankful that there are people out there helping them on their journey to healing, thankful I was able to help even if it was just a little bit.

Neil Campbell #metoo

 

CTV News Interview

CBC News Article

 

 

Five in a Five Part Series by Sandra McDonald

Boys, this is a really rough time for you, hey? For a minute there, it looked like one power-hungry victimizer might act as a lightning rod of all of mankind, allowing other attackers to skulk off into the shadows unnoticed. But the word is out: assault happens.

You might be feeling a bit demonized? A little freaked out? What if someone accuses you of a #MeToo offense? What if you’re guilty? What if you’re not guilty?

And how are you managing the chilling memories of your own trauma? Are you ok?

Some of you need to be called out. You know who you are (and you’re definitely not reading this blog).

Some of you will be wrongly accused (maybe you already have been?). That will unjustly upend your world.

Some of you are the long-silent sufferers of wounds so deep and frightening and life-shaping. You didn’t ask to have your own memories yanked out from there hidey-holes, but two little words, a hashtag, and a media explosion, and now you’re face to face with your own ghosts and monsters.

You certainly don’t deserve to be hated, blamed, or shamed for just being male, but it’s a little tense out there right now. Our current culture is so tough on you: you’re either Homer-Simpson-sluggish or Trump-Weinstein-lecherous. You are the buffoon, the emotionally bereft slug, the power-mongering tyrant, the hammer-wielding superhero. Gone are the days of being just a regular, God-fearin’, hard-workin’, nice guy.

Would you consider re-writing that narrative? Your story is important.

Right now. In this conversation. You might have your own #MeToo chapters in your story?

How can we, as a culture, make space for men to be men to be men. What does that even mean today? I have three sons that, I have to tell you, I’m scared to death for. Did I do enough to teach them the value of their gender identity – in all of its masculine, feminine, and something-wholly-other goodness? Did I teach them the value of all humanity? The need to respect, validate, and truly hear the stories of their Others? Will they be at ease in their own bodies, with their own thoughts, and in engaging wisely and generously with the world – as men? Will they manage their need to be respected and powerful in the world, and will they do this without attempting to master another person along the way?

Your story. As brother-father-son-victim-abuser. We need to hear it just as badly as you need to give voice to it. There are people who will listen, without judgment to the scariest bits of your history. And if those bits include hurting others, don’t make a shiny apology, using words to gloss over bad behavior in an effort to distance yourself from hard truths. But don’t take on responsibility where it’s not yours to bear, either.

Contribute. Learn. Listen. Validate. Believe. Tell the truth of your experience. Know your own hungers. Own your hungers, and learn to manage them in ways that do not bring harm to any other person. You are not a monster. You are a man. #MeToo can be made a thing of the past with your work to that end.

Four in a Five Part Series by Sandra McDonald

#MeToo is an exposure of men behaving badly – and at great cost to the security, well-being, and identity of women. It is a match-flare flash of light into the dark corners of long-kept secrets. A sudden, alarming glimpse of the danger faced by most (all?) women at some point in their lives.

It is right that long-silent victims have an opportunity to bring their own violation out into the light (where it will lose so much of its shaming power). Your experience has made you stronger, more courageous, more fearful, more resolute, more timid. You’ve been marked by it in one way, or another.

Do find a safe and loving space to share your story. We might argue that social media isn’t the most secure place for that vulnerability. But your dear friends, a trusted advisor, a mentor, a space like BFF – it is important for your healing, and the healing of your world, that you tell your story.

#MeToo and #ItStopsNow are also a  testimony to the wrenching truth that women have just not been there for each other.

I well know what it is to be the one powerless woman in a room full of powerful men. I know how they use their bodies, their language, and their money to keep an intelligent, resourceful, get ‘er done gal in “her place.”

And I know what it is to be one of many women in a room, looking hopefully from one face to the next, thinking “Surely these women will stand with me for what they know must be done here?” only to see, immediately, that their heads are bowed and their lips are silent.

“Maybe if you weren’t quite so opinionated they would agree to make changes/adjust policy/implement procedure.”

“If you just talk more like a man they’ll be more willing to listen to you…”

“Oh, you just misunderstood his intentions.”

“It sure wouldn’t hurt if you just showed a little ankle…”

I was part of a community of women that knew exactly which ones were being hit by their spouses. It was an open secret, amongst the women, that Sally’s husband had gotten “a little carried away” with Sue…but it was all just a misunderstanding.

Your story can help change how men interact with women. More importantly (?) it may help change how women interact with one another.

But not if we leave it as a hashtag one-liner out in the Twittersphere. What is our part, girls? In our homes, our relationships, our places of employment, and the way we spend our dollars? We don’t need more blog posts, news feed buzz, or clever kitty-cat headbands. We do need to put action and choice and instruction (with some maturity and cool-headed sass) to the dogged work of adjusting the mindset of a culture. A global culture.

Three in a Five Part Series by Sandra McDonald

Have you found yourself tangling with unexpected memories of your own sexual history these past few months? Yeah, me too. In fact, #MeToo has compelled my own experience with unwanted touch and talk burbling right on up to the surface. I didn’t invite these thoughts. But here I am: thinking about my 47 years through the misty lens of long-quashed memories.

In “Your Story” I noted (in over-simplified terms, for sure!) that we communicate in the pattern of our own generation. I’m somewhere in the middle of, “Shhhhh. Nice girls don’t talk about such things!” (Words sternly spoken by the matriarch of my family. We also sit legs graciously crossed. We do not pick our noses in church. And we never, ever cry.), and “Don’t use those words – that’s my trigger!” I’m learning sensitivity to, and pushing against, this position just a bit…but that’s a different story, Resilient Friends. You’re stronger than you know!

This means that I share easily about some things, but there are many things that I, for the sake of propriety and the protection of the bullies in my life (What a strange propensity we have for this, right? A jumble of terror and politeness.) feel more comfortable remaining mum about.

I am not a beautiful woman. No, don’t protest that. Not even out of politeness. I’m not being self-deprecating or hateful. I am not pretty. I am prone to chubby with small eyes, thin lips, and a too-stubby chin. I’ve got a set of great birthin’ hips (read: broad and well-padded). My wobbly bits have always been strangely wobbly and I have never turned the head of a boy with the flip of my hair.

And I am a victim of sexual shaming and inappropriate touch. How I missed being more violently assaulted I cannot tell because there were some near misses.

“You fat cow!”

“You have hands like a man – look how big they are!” (One of the church elders made it a weekly point to meet me by the coat racks, my back pressed against dangling jackets and stacks of Bibles, to comment on some aspect of my physical appearance. Eyebrows too furry, waist too narrow, dress too short/too long/too lacey/too plain. And big ol’ man-hands.)

“You eat enough to be a farm boy!” (For Gramma, whom I revered, love and loathing were baked, equal parts into cookies, and squares, and ooey-gooey cinnamon buns.)

“You’re filling that top out really well right now.” (This by a man, lolling, legs-spread-wide in his church pew, as he leered at my milk-engorged breasts after the birth of my first son.)

“Come here. Sit on my lap. I want to show you how much God loves you.”

My stomach turns to jelly as this memory lurches to mind. He was a man 30 years my senior. A professional counselor working from a Christian retreat centre. I was 17 years old and feeling lost. My upbringing was staunchly patriarchal (that is, man is the head and woman is the submissive, weaker second), and subjugated (men lead, women serve). It did not, for even a second, occur to me not to obey.

And these are just a few of the encounters with men. It is the stories of women, one after another, from as early as I can remember, putting me in my place with shaming, hate-filled, “If only you were born a boy” intent that has heart-scars twinging with confusion and self-deprecation just when I least expect it.

My story is riddled through with religion, sex, morals, ethnic background, and shame, shame, shame.

But it doesn’t stop there. I am the mother of three sons. I am a neighbor, a friend, a wife, a relative. I am a listener and a story keeper. Countless women and men have shared their stories of one-off assaults and chronic abuse at my kitchen table. Of rape, incest, verbal assault, and unwanted solicitation. And I’m asking myself, “How have I contributed to the continuation of shaming-into-silence?” To listen to your story with full-hearted compassion and the willingness to look for resources is one thing. But is there more for me to do to ensure that cycles of abuse cease? How do I more capably advocate for healing for victimizers? How can I hone my language to ensure this conversation is being given space (carefully, gently, boldly) and then sacredly held? Did I (and here my heart stutters and my lungs fail with sick fear) do enough to teach my sons the honor due all of humanity? All races, genders, religions?

My story goes well beyond creepy men and handsy boys into a life where it is (desperately) important that I make space for women and men like you to bring some of the hard stuff out into the light of day. By getting what’s on the inside out, in a space that is wise and patient and free of judgment, we can heal hearts and quiet minds.

You, too. BFF can help.

Two in a Five Part Series by Sandra McDonald

I am a woman of a certain age. Not quite a senior. Not quite a young woman. The generation before me talked about nothing. Compelled to silence by strong (read: threatening) hands, the social mores of their day, and the hopelessness that comes from deeply entrenched belief that their story will not make a difference, their inner voice says, “What difference would it make if I did talk about it?” #MeToo is a bit baffling and alarming to the ones who’ve gone before us in building a tidily polite society.

The pendulum is swinging to the extreme opposite of that rigidity. The generation following mine talks about everything. Nothing is private, sacred, or off-limits. #MeToo makes sense and there’s an understanding that paying attention to Self is legitimate, normal, and even useful.

You fit somewhere in this mix, too, hey? For reasons that are good enough for you, you have openly spoken of your trauma, your broken spirit, your fear for the future. For reasons that are good enough for you, you have kept your experiences tucked well away from the eyes and ears of even the people who know and love you best. You wouldn’t dream of speaking them aloud.

Your story is your story. You carry great courage through your day (and you know it takes courage just to get out of bed some mornings!). The goodness that is deep within you is always ready to bring light and hope right out into the open in this dark world. Your humor and uniquely-yours point of view? It’s going to be the thing that helps make the world a softer place for someone else.

You are resilient. Do you know that about yourself? You probably don’t feel resilient, but consider what you’ve come through – and here you are! Still breathing in, breathing out. Sometimes that’s enough. But you’re moving past that, too. You’re loving others. You’re considering loving yourself.

That is a bit of sticking point, right? Loving Self. For some of us, that’s a far off and distant land – the stuff of fairy tales and whimsy. Or, more darkly, impossible: to love Self would mean considering who that Self is. And we don’t think that person is worth knowing at all.

While our newsfeeds explode with stories of assault, intimidating powers-that-be, and stories of intimate violation your own story has been pulled to the forefront of your thinking. You didn’t invite it. But thoughts you’ve avoided for years, forever, are suddenly squarely in your line of sight.

It’s ok if you don’t know what to do with that today. It’s ok if want to talk about things long-silent. Your experience is your own. It’s ok to find someone who is safe and present and selfless to share how you relate to the cultural story. It’s also ok if you don’t want to talk about this yet.

If you are ready to talk about the very complex ways that you have been impacted by trauma (and that trauma may not be sexual in nature), you are not alone. There are listeners, friends, and professionals nearby. Your story is important. A healing and moving-toward-wholeness You will ensure that the generation that comes after us…and the one that comes after them…can focus their energies on other things.

First of a Five Part Series by Sandra McDonald

#MeToo is not a new movement, but it is new to Hollywood, and that means that, for this brief moment, it has grabbed the spotlight, our imaginations, and talk show conversation. The other night I watched an interview between a comedian and a famous actor. The former boldly challenged the latter to account for accusations of inappropriate touch. The latter, panic-eyed and breathy, choked out scripted lines (carefully shaped to reassure that he meant no harm, he doesn’t remember, he’s appalled that anyone could ever think…), decrying the shocking extent of sexual victimization in his industry.

But you, BFF reader, are not surprised by the reach of sexual assault, rape, or inappropriate touch and language. You already know that it can happen to anyone. Anywhere. And it happens at the hands of the powerful, the rich, the frightened, the poor. It is perpetrated by those who know better and who glory in the control they wield. It is perpetrated by those who were victims first, and who, truly, may not know any other way to be. It continues in closets and corners and offices and public spaces. It’s happened to you, and to the people you adore.

Maybe you’ve even contributed to this not-so-secret secret shame? Courage, friend. We all have. If only by our silence, the turning of an avoidant gaze, you and I share in this part of the human condition.

Organizations like BFF have had boots on the ground on these issues for years. They’re doing the good work of making space for conversation, helping us to find the language to shape and understand our own stories, and moving us forward in finding wholeness.

You have a role in this conversation, and in changing our world. If you are a man or a woman who has wounded another, it’s time to make things right. BFF can help with that. If you are a woman or man who has been wounded, will you give yourself permission to consider moving toward healing? There is space here for you, for your story, and for the restoration of your heart, mind, and body.

If you are the loving Other of one of the above, you are not powerless. Be the loving, attentive, and aware listener that your Hurting Person needs. Your part of hearing and helping is no small thing. Feeling inadequate and overwhelmed? That’s ok. This is really big stuff! But you can give to a work that is equipped to provide professional care. You can make it possible for the people who are courageously walking alongside the hurting to keep doing what they’re doing.

It’s ok if you and I are not comfortable putting ourselves out there on the front lines. It’s not ok for you and I to pretend that the people we love, and who love us, have not been marked by this.

Whatever our engagement in this (temporarily?) public conversation, let’s move things forward together. Then, when humanity revisits this conversation in the decades to come, it will have been propelled forward by good work done in our time.

“The jiggling I’d felt in my head when it hit the ground had most certainly been more than a little whiplash.” Little did I know the impact that fall would have on my brain, nor the long-term, life-altering effect on my life. Two years later and I’m venturing into a new chapter, a new way of living and being.

No pain no gain, right?

Until recently I felt my future was pretty stilted and my ability to pursue my dreams or plans had gone out the window. My functioning brain, my drive, my positive outlook on life seemed a distant memory. Oh yah, the memory was sloppy too.

I started toying with the idea of running in a half (or quarter) marathon after I’d attended the Cypress Hills High Hopes Challenge last August. They were raising funds for BFF and as the ED of our Foundation, I wanted to represent, to share what our organization does and show appreciation for their commitment and donation. Now I shake my head. How silly for me to expose myself to something that would draw me into a whole new world, something I said I’d never do. Run.

The two-year mark of my concussion was looming after that visit to Cypress Hills and I knew something desperately needed to change. After experiencing depression (which is almost standard following a concussion), significant weight gain due to inactivity and lack of desire to take care of myself physically or mentally, the downward spiral had to stop. My neuro-rehab had considerably lifted the fog in my brain, but I still felt so sluggish. All I wanted to do was sleep. My doctor told me I was borderline for hypothyroidism and that she wasn’t going to put me on medication…yet.

Enough already.

As someone who is known for taking responsibility for my actions and not deflecting or blaming others, it was time to face myself and create change. In order for renewal and spark to show up in my life, I knew I’d have to go big or stop complaining while I stayed stuck. Will Smith’s recent viral Instagram video about fault vs responsibility sums up where I’m at with myself. It’s actually nobody’s fault that it was icy when I fell, but how I live going forward is definitely up to me.

Taking responsibility is taking your power back. ~Will Smith

If it’s going to be it’s up to me.

The past two months I’ve vacillated between, “What was I thinking?” to “I can’t wait to feel better!” So now that I’ve got some time behind me, where am I at with my efforts in getting healthy and preparing for a 5K?

The Good | finding joy

I finally have a grip on my eating. I joined four others for a week of clean eating, and I almost nailed it! Eliminating sugar, wheat and dairy is no easy task but I’ve done it before and I’m doing it again. With the exception of a wee bit of coconut sugar in my coffee, I’m very satisfied with my improvement in food choices. It sounds so weird to write this, given that eating healthy used to be my norm. The side benefit is that my kids are eating healthier too, and they’re liking it!

Sure I’ve shed a bit of weight and I can tell (I’m not weighing myself, remember), but it’s the clear head and no naps required that are my main wins. So. Happy. I’m noticing a glimmer of confidence returning.

I’ve noticed an improvement in my emotions and mental processes too. We all know what we put in our mouths affects our well being, but it’s a whole different matter to take charge and ensure we do something about it!

I stumbled upon Dr. Susan David’s work this week and I love her message! I haven’t bought her book yet, Emotional Agility, but I will be. In her Ted Talk, three comments got my attention:

  1. I was praised for being strong. One of my triggers is being told how strong I am. Sometimes I’d really rather not have to be, but in retrospect, I’ve become grateful for that strength.
  2. Courage is fear…walking. Wow. I relate to that on so many levels. I have lived courageously, I’ve survived and I continue to walk with courage.
  3. Life’s beauty is inseparable from its fragility. The juxtaposition of my love of life and the pain I’ve experienced is wrapped up in that sentence.

The Bad | what’s not working

I’m still not active enough. I’m becoming more accountable to certain people and I’ve signed up for a jiu-jitsu class. I have a long-standing shoulder injury I’m dealing with so won’t be tackling anyone anytime soon, but the reality is, the movements and stretches can be modified to suit my physical ability. No excuses.

In the days leading up to the Olympics, I came across the story of Mark McMorris, a Canadian snowboarder who almost lost his life last March. He was still named to the Olympic team as long as he was fully recovered in time. He more than met the challenge and I was so moved by his story. He is now my inspiration as I continue on my own journey. It is truly worth the 45 minutes of your life to marvel at his recovery and to gain inspiration from. I’ll be watching him closely as he competes!

The Ugly | what I’m fighting

The mental beating: I’m not doing enough, I’m never going to be ready for the run in August, once again my grandiose venture is just too, well, grandiose. It’s my mental capacity that’s been my biggest challenge, but it’s also been where I’m finding my greatest growth right now.

  • I’m processing grief – the great losses I’ve experienced since my concussion, that only I know.
  • I’m recognizing where my negative self-talk has blocked me and I’m finally getting somewhere with changing it.
  • Some days my emotions drive me around a bend. I’ve been told once or twice that I’m “too emotional”. I’ve come a long way, and the above Ted Talk along with her workbook and quizzes have been eye opening and helpful.

The Takeaway

No pain no gain includes the mental, emotional and physical aspects of what I’m working towards. The same way building muscles can hurt, so does building mental and emotional strength. Step by step, not giving up, falling down and getting up. No matter your skill level or your age, the determining factor is your willingness to take responsibility for yourself.

As Jeff Haden talks about in this Inc.com article, it won’t be fun in the moment… but it will make you a lot happier over the long-term.

Next update I will make myself more accountable by sharing my plan/process to get to August’s run. I better get on that!

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.