News

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.

Did you know that one in three girls and one in five boys will be victims of unwanted sexual activity before the age of 18?

I do, now. Thanks to the work I do with Breaking Free Foundation and the Victor Walk, I am armed with an arsenal of education and awareness on this difficult reality. Having survived ten years of sexual abuse as a child, I knew of my own experience only, but was not surprised to learn that three people in my family had suffered the same reality (that we know of).

I had my first “me too” experience at the first Victor Walk in 2013, when I stood in front of strangers at the Calgary rally and revealed the truth that had weighed me down for years. Since then, my voice has catapulted me to new levels of healing and happiness and vulnerability that I never knew existed. The domino effect of positive change that continues to occur from the Victor Walk movement, never ceases to amaze me. But, it did amaze me this past week in a huge way, when I got to to witness the ripple effects in my own family first-hand.

Towards the end of 2016, my uncle Peter emerged as a newly sober and inspired person. We had spoken in December about his plans to cycle across Canada following his sobriety journey, and that in light of learning about my story and the other members of the family, he wanted to dedicate this ride to raising awareness about child sexual abuse. But truthfully, this was the last we really spoke of it.

Uncle Peter, and his newfound friend Jacques Letourneau, began their bicycle journey across Canada in May. On June 16th, they arrived in Calgary. The second day they were in town, I was surprised to find my uncle donned in Victor Walk apparel.

“Where did you get that?” I asked.

“I ordered it online months ago,” he said.

I was shocked, in a good way. How cool is it that he was cycling across Canada dressed in orange Victor Walk gear?!

The rest of the weekend was great, I had not seen my uncle in six years, and it was great to spend time with him, Jacques and the rest of the family for a weekend. On his last day in Calgary, my uncle divulged that him and Jacques had setup a website to raise money and awareness for child sexual abuse on their cycle trip across Canada. Their website was titled “2 Frogs Against Abuse”, and they chose in part for humour because they both hail from Montreal, but also because the Victor Walk frog inspired them. The notion that a frog never hops backwards, was a key message for them.

Sexual and physical abuse are prevalent, systemic and at epidemic levels.  Abuse is masked, silenced, or ignored by institutions like the army, police forces, the media, former native residential schools, universities and even our own families.  Recently, Peter  learned that his family and his neighbourhood were casualties.  The number of victims are reflected by a shocking national average of over 30%. Furthermore, the relationship between abuse, addiction and crime are overwhelming. We want to dedicate our ride across Canada to all those who have been traumatized by abuse.

Wow, I couldn’t believe the gratitude I felt that they would take inspiration from our message and kickstart this whole nationwide movement. I was also thrilled to learn that he, as a teacher, has taken his platform and has been using it to raise awareness and educate young people about consent, addiction and sexual abuse.

Yesterday, my uncle called me from Edmonton, to let me know that CBC wanted to interview him about this awareness ride. He asked my permission to mention me in the piece, of course, I obliged. He also let out a few tears over the phone and let me know that he was very proud of me, and that this is important to the family.

As fellow victims of childhood trauma will know, that feeling of “not good enough” can linger. And for me, hearing that threw me into a whirlwind of emotions. I hung up that phone and cried my eyes out. I was happy, proud and most of all grateful. Silence took a toll on myself and my family for years, and it is really amazing that conversations are starting to happen. I am so incredibly proud of my uncle and the Victor Walk movement.

For our Francophone friends, here’s an interview in French on CBC radio that my uncle and Jacques did; for English, check out this video on CBC (hit the 10 minute mark).

You can learn more about the Victor Walk here.

 

 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.

What a gorgeous, blue sky day. As he cinched the rope around my waist, I instinctively knew this was no blue sky, innocent outing.

I begged Mom not to make me go outside to play with him, but I was met with no choice. How could she have guessed my discomfort? At the age of four, my inability to communicate the fear of being alone with him left me vulnerable. I felt helpless. It wasn’t the first time he’d tied a rope around my waist.

As he led me down the back alley, I wondered what was next. Last time it was just a walk. Would it be the same this time? Of course, my Mom had no idea he had a rope at the ready, nor that his intentions were less than pure.

As a curious 12-year-old, he found a ditch for me to lay down in, and promptly pulled down my underwear and began to explore. Part of me wished it was a more private spot as other neighbours drove by, trying to figure out what we were up to. He told me to get my panties up fast, and promptly walked me home to avoid questions. Yes, the rope was still around my waist until we’d reached my yard. He never asked me to ‘play’ again, thank God. I wonder sometimes who else was subjected to his curiosity.

Fast forward to when I was twelve. I had a friend down the street who invited me to join her on the wild side, meeting the gang at the park, smoking and drinking. I never could get the hang of smoking and refused to drink – the smell was disgusting to me and I had absolutely no desire to try, but oh how I wanted to fit in.

One night after dark, the guys started talking about us girls and our various stages of development. As the most under-developed of the bunch, they began to mock me, teasing that they should “feel me up” to see if there was anything there.

Initially I didn’t take them seriously but then they started heading my direction. I told them not to even think about it and I was scared. I started running but it didn’t take much for them to catch me and throw me down on the gravel.

As three or four of them held me down, the guy I’d had a crush on for months stuck his hand up my shirt. His buddy was next. They laughed and laughed as they announced to the rest that there was nothing to feel.

I got up off the ground and took off running again, but this time they didn’t chase me. As I got closer to home I tripped on the curb and fell, resulting in a cracked elbow.

At least it was a good cover for my tears.

Years later, as an adult, I shared those experiences with my precious Mom. She was sad and mortified, apologizing that she hadn’t picked up on the fact that the neighbour kid was unsafe, or that there was more going on with my rebel friends than what she already knew. I didn’t blame her. How could she have known?

That was a time when stranger danger wasn’t a thing (but neither perpetrator was an unknown anyway), and such topics weren’t discussed. She wishes she knew then what is common practice now.

I don’t know that I’ve talked about it much, but I felt I’d resolved some of the underlying issues as a young adult and didn’t need to discuss it.

Given the community I am now involved with here, however, leads me to believe there is power in sharing my story. If even one person feels they aren’t alone in their silence and finds their voice, it will have been worth it.

Even though I inherently knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, shame lived inside me for several years. The ‘not good enough’ self-talk was prevalent too. No wonder hey?

We’re scared to talk, we feel ashamed, we want to protect ourselves and maybe even others, thinking it’s better if they don’t know.

As children, we may not know how to put a voice to it. As parents there is often talk about age-appropriate discussions regarding safe touch, but when age-appropriate isn’t considered from a perpetrator’s point of view, when exactly do we talk to our kids? Knowing what I’ve experienced and what stats indicate, I’m beginning to wonder what age-appropriateness and stranger danger conversations should sound like.

What I do know is, staying silent is never the answer. Encourage your ‘others’ to talk, provide a safe and trusting environment, even if it’s uncomfortable for you. Their safety and security may depend on it.

Following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is the global online movement, Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is an initiative focused on giving back—and November 29th is your chance to give back to a non-profit in need, like the Breaking Free Foundation (BFF).

The Breaking Free Foundation is a registered non-profit, that runs entirely off the generous donations of others. Donations to BFF go towards our many initiatives and public services:

  • Victor Walk: this is a national movement powered by an Orange Wave of Courage, giving a voice to those affected by childhood rape and trauma. The Victor Walk movement is a nationwide initiative that runs every July. Our 2017 Victor Walk will be taking place July 18-22 in Saskatchewan, more information can be found here.
  • Therapy Grants: one of the main focuses of the Breaking Free Foundation is to help make trauma healing more accessible for everyone. One of the ways in which we are doing this, is through our therapy grant program, which allows approved candidates to receive designated therapy services, paid for via our foundation. How this works is simple: interested applicants just fill out our Application for Grant Therapy, and mail (or email) it to us. We review each applicant, and assess their needs for trauma-based therapy. If the applicant is approved, we match them with one of our approved and screened trauma therapists. Our model differs from other free counselling services, because we pay the trauma therapist their regular fee, so we can ensure that we are providing our clients with the best possible quality of therapy. We also only work with therapists who are trauma trained and specialize in this type of work. We look for specific designations and certifications and screen all of our therapists thoroughly. You can find out more about our Therapy Grant Program here (available to Alberta residents only at this time).

If you’re interested in donating to the Breaking Free Foundation, you can do so here. If you are interested in supporting us by purchasing some of our awareness apparel or “me too” bracelets, you can find out more information here. Contact us for opportunities for volunteering as well!

In light of the the Graham James parole request that is making headlines across the country today, Theo Fleury has decided to forego making a comment about this story, and instead use the opportunity to promote the more important message—healing.

Right now, Fleury and his team are on the third Victor Walk, a powerful grassroots movement and nationwide awareness campaign focused on childhood trauma. After the first Victor Walk in 2013, hundreds of thousands of people have stood together to say, “me too”.
Stories that give the limelight to abusers like James in the media, only serve to re-victimize the people who they have hurt, and put attention where it’s not needed. We are only interested in bringing attention to one message—healing.
The message of the Victor Movement is not about seeking justice, it’s about focusing on our individual journeys of healing. A movement from victim to Victor. There is emotional pain and suffering in the past, and that is why the frog is our symbol for the Victor Movement: frogs never hop backwards, they always move forward. Our team is supported by thousands of people nationwide, who are banding together this week, to break the cycle of trauma and empower the cycle of healing.
On July 19, Fleury’s Victor Walk team has been walking from Russell across Manitoba, where their journey will eventually come to a finale in Winnipeg on Saturday. We have been honoured and moved by the incredible support in the communities across Manitoba and Canada, that have come together to help share this message of awareness on childhood trauma.
Perhaps the most important underlying message of the Victor Movement, is the spreading of awareness of the Breaking Free Foundation (BFF), the non-profit that was founded by Fleury, following the first Victor Walk in 2013.
The Victor Walk is supported by and for BFF, an organization that is aimed at providing survivors of traumatic life events with the treatment and support needed to reclaim their lives.
In addition to providing online support for people healing from trauma, we provide a safe space for people to share their stories. Perhaps the biggest mission of BFF however, is to ensure everyone has access to trauma therapy, despite their economic status.
With an innovative new initiative, BFF has introduced a Therapy Grant Program, where survivors of trauma can apply for paid trauma treatment with a high-quality, vetted trauma psychologist.
The 2016 Victor Walk tour wraps up in Winnipeg on July 23 at 11:00am, more information can be found here. For information on the many sister walks happening across Canada on July 23, click here. To learn more about the Victor Movement, follow us on Twitter or Facebook.
To learn more about BFF, follow us on Twitter or Facebook.
*Information on donating to BFF can be found online, as well as applications for both Trauma Therapists and Therapy Applicants who want to be part of our programs.

Sexual assault in the workplace is a serious issue, an issue that has garnered a lot of extra attention as of late, with many big companies facing allegations and investigations right now. The media has been all over big brands in the last couple of months, for the stories of sexual assault happening among their employees or in the workplace.

In any case of sexual assault, it’s important to remember that there’s nothing rare about it, it’s how companies react to these allegations that can brand them as leaders or part of the problem.

FACT: sexual assaults are extremely common, 460,000 sexual assaults happen every year in Canada. Of that number, 33 out of every 1,000 sexual assault cases are reported to the police. Perhaps more importantly, only 2-4% of reported sexual assaults are determined to be false reports.

In understanding the statistics, companies should realize that in the majority of cases, these are very legitimate claims and need to be taken very seriously. However, some companies jump into PR mode when a sexual assault claim arises, and go on the defensive instead of putting their energy where it can be most effective—in care and compassion for the victim.

Brands are worried about losing credibility, but in going on the defensive, they end up hurting their business even more, and the victim too. A perfect example of this misstep, is what happened to Uber this past month. After a huge BuzzFeed investigative story was posted, it was unveiled that 6,000 complaints involving sexual assault were filed against Uber. Instead of going the compassion route, Uber posted a very defensive open letter on Medium, which proved only to cause more scrutiny towards the company, and re-traumatized the immense number of victims.

“Our analysis for all of these results shows five tickets that allege an actual rape occurred (0.0000009% of rides in the three years from December 2012 to August 2015) and 170 tickets with a legitimate claim of sexual assault (1 in every 3.3 million trips).” [Uber on Medium]

Needless to say, the response to the public concern over the high number of complaints, led to some serious scrutiny by many.

So Uber apparently thinks it’s okay to defend itself by announcing that only 1 in every 3.3 million passengers is sexually assaulted? Even if that number was 1 in every 3 billion, it would be one too many. Uber has an obligation as a company to ensure the safety of its passengers and to use figures like this as a form of defense is an insult to everyone who has ever reported such an incident. [The Next Web]

So how should a company react when a sexual assault claim is brought against their business or an employee?

  • Assure the person bringing forth the complaint that the matter is being seriously looked into. Walk them through the process and what will happen next, and be sure to offer support both on a professional level and through required HR resources or third-party resources (therapy, crisis lines, etc.).
  • Consult with your HR department and upper management on how to proceed with the situation internally and externally. Be sure to inform staff of the process occurring and provide the necessary support, as trauma can have a ripple effect within a workplace. The Government of Canada has some great resources on responding to trauma in the workplace, we also have additional resources on this on our website here.
  • In many cases, an external communication plan will be needed. If you don’t have the resources in-house, consult with both an HR and PR representative on how to address the situation publicly and with compassion and information.

If your company does not offer insurance-covered therapy with a certified trauma specialist, please check out our Therapy Grant Program for any employees dealing with the trauma associated with sexual assault. You can follow us on Twitter for more resources.

— Written by Amber Craig [Twitter]

The Breaking Free Foundation is excited to announce the launch of a new program we’re offering, BFF Meetups: group healing through conversations. Our President, Theo Fleury will lead a group conversation about trauma and healing. Participate actively or simply as a listener, as these are safe spaces to connect with BFF and the greater trauma and healing community.

BFF Meetups are only being held in Calgary at this time, and you can join us at locations listed on the following dates:

  • August 10 at 7pm at The Commons: 105, 1210 20 Ave SE *FREE to attend*

Entry to BFF Meetups is with a donation to Breaking Free Foundation, and at Cardel with a food bank item as well. We appreciate the support for our organization and the community. You can follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as well.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in Calgary launched a 60 day initiative recently, to help end stigmas surrounding mental health and addiction. Each day, their website featured stories about resilience, strength and hope in healing. The Breaking Free Foundation Chair, Amber Craig, shared her story on the CMHA blog. Her piece:

“Sharing your truth is key to the healing process”— Theo Fleury from ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake

Have you ever had a secret that ate you up inside, a secret that you hid from the world, for fear of judgment or misunderstanding? I did. I hid myself in a cloak of shame and secrecy for 20 years.  

That shame and secrecy manifested itself in many difficult ways, including my depression diagnosis at 13-years-old. I felt very alone during my teenage years and early adulthood, mainly because I thought I was the only one dealing with this pain, and my secrecy kept me from accessing the mental health care I really needed.

In 2013, a nationwide movement was launched by Theo Fleury called the Victor Walk, an awareness initiative on ending childhood sexual abuse. The focus was to help survivors transition from victim to victor, it sounded amazing. I volunteered to help coordinate a Victor Walk rally in Calgary, and on May 23, 2013, my life changed forever.

During our Victor Walk rally, I listened to a dozen or more strangers bravely stand up and share their stories of trauma, abuse and the effect these experiences had on their lives and the lives of their loved ones. The last person to come up was a young girl, about six-years-old, with her mother. The pair shared a heartbreaking tale of abuse the young girl had suffered, and that brave little girl stood in front of us without fear, and declared to the world she would be a ‘victor’ too. Something shifted inside me as I heard these two share, or perhaps someone, the six-year-old girl inside me.

I grabbed the megaphone, and for the first time in my life, I spoke my truth and said “me too”. In that moment, I felt so incredibly free, I had risen above my mental illness and past trauma and accepted myself without shame. The best part was, the fear I was holding onto all those years turned out to be totally unfounded, because what happened after that day in 2013, was a domino effect of support from near and far. Even more compelling, the amount of people who reached out to say “me too”.  

Following the Victor Walk in 2013, I made a promise not to live in secrecy and shame anymore. I wrote a blog about my experience, and that blog made its way to the person who indirectly opened the door for me in the first place, Theo Fleury.

Fleury kick-started a group of Calgarians with a common goal to help the trauma community, and the result was seven of us creating the Breaking Free Foundation. Our foundation not only continues to put on the annual Victor Walk movement, but also provides free trauma therapy via a grant process. I feel blessed to work with an amazing group and in an amazing community of supporters and advocates who are working together to create awareness and end stigma surrounding trauma and mental health.

In the three years since the first Victor Walk, I have transitioned from victim to victor to advocate. Not only was I able to finally receive mental health treatment from an amazing psychologist, I have been able to turn my experience into a gift.

Today, I live a fulfilling and mostly happy life. Like many others with mental illness, I too have ups and downs, but I’ve learned to embrace them as opportunities for growth. I am always learning, always healing and always growing.

#NowImStronger because sharing my story helped me help others.

 

Link to the CMHA story and website here

image

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.

 

 

 

IMG_2040-e1449638373530-1
The Ogden Legion (Branch #154) in Calgary unfortunately had to close its doors this year due to a lack of membership, but they are leaving an incredible legacy behind. On December 8, 2015, the Ogden Legion handed out $2.2 million in donation cheques to 20 Calgary non-profits and charities, and the Breaking Free Foundation was incredibly honoured to be one of them!

Members of the Breaking Free Foundation board were in attendance at a presentation ceremony this week, where we were given an amazing donation of $100,000! Being in our first year of operation, this donation is a game-changer for us, as we’ll be able to roll out our much-anticipated Therapy Grant Program.

If you’re unfamiliar with our Therapy Grant Program, it allows us to provide free trauma therapy to Albertans. We screen and select the best trauma-trained therapists across our province, and match them with applicants who need mental health treatment. Our biggest goal, is to make trauma treatment accessible for everyone, regardless of economic status.

If you’ve been following the news in Alberta lately, it’s no secret our citizens are in desperate need of access to mental healthcare: domestic violence, mental health problems and suicides are all on a steep incline in our province this year. Trauma affects everyone, and comes in thousands of forms from abuse and combat to disease, death, divorce, addiction—the list is endless. This $100,000 donation allows us to help so many more people, and we’re so grateful for the amazing people at the Ogden Legion for thinking of BFF.

19 other amazing local non-profits received donation cheques as well, here’s the list:

  • Boys and Girls Club of Calgary
  • Made by Momma
  • Ogden House Senior Citizen’s Club
  • Alzheimer Society of Calgary
  • Association for the Rehabilitation of the Brain Injured
  • BC and Alberta Guide Dogs Program
  • Stopbully.com
  • Alberta Animal Rescue Society (AARCS)
  • Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse
  • Calgary Poppy Fund
  • Calgary YWCA
  • Legacy Place Society
  • Little Warriors
  • Meow Foundation
  • Millican-Ogden Community Association
  • Ogden Legion Pipe Band Association
  • Prairie Sky Equine Assisted Therapy
  • Project P.A.L
  • Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre

Huge thank you again to the Ogden Legion, we look forward to serving the trauma community for many years to come! For more information on our Therapy Grant Program, see here. You can reach BFF via email or contact us anytime on Facebook or Twitter.

photo-1425009294879-3f15dd0b4ed5

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
[Follow her on Twitter

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.

4356035622_516eae55be_o_d

October is Child Abuse Awareness Month in Canada, and now is the time to pay attention to an epidemic in our country—one-third of Canadians have been abused as a child. That number is far too high, and hopefully the increased attention to this problem this month will serve to educate Canadians and hopefully work to lower those numbers.

32% of Canadians [have] experienced physical abuse, sexual abuse, exposure to intimate partner violence or a combination of these while they were young. [National Post, Canadian Medical Association Journal]

The data from the report (quoted above), was released last year, and it’s just a small snapshot of the big problem our country and our children are facing. Not to mention, a majority of those who cited experiencing abuse as a child, would develop mental health problems later on. Child abuse and trauma is something that affects everyone, across all generations.

Each province and territory has its own child protection legislation that defines the circumstances in which a child is in need of protection, and you can find out more about that on the Government of Alberta website. But if you find yourself in a position where child abuse or neglect is being disclosed, here’s how you can respond:

  • Acknowledge: be sure to acknowledge the child’s situation and their feelings. Be a careful and attentive listener, but refrain from interviewing the child. Listening is more important than asking questions at this point.
  • Comfort: ensure the child they are safe and comfort them. No matter what, child abuse is never the child’s fault.
  • Take notes: document what the child says or what it is that you see, then take action by reporting it to the local police authority.

When in doubt, report suspected child abuse.  You do not have to be 100 per cent certain that abuse has occurred. The safety of the child or youth may be at risk. The authorities have the responsibility to determine the facts and evidence, not you. [Canadian Red Cross]

More resources on identifying and responding to child abuse can be found on the Alberta Government website. Take to social media to speak up for kids as well, you can find us on Twitter and Facebook.

— Written by Amber Craig
[Follow me on Twitter]

Interested in sharing your story on our blog? Please send submissions to: contact@breakingfreefoundation.ca

5687578297_181213fdee_o_d

I have heard many stories, shared in deep sadness and pain, and also been witness to the immense inner-strength and resilience present in so many people affected by trauma. However, when I speak of trauma, it is not based solely on definitions such as the one from the American Psychological Association which states, “Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster. Although trauma is definitely made up of these events and many more (childhood abuse, neglect, and abandonment).

I think of a quote from D.W. Winnicott (a renowned British Psychiatrist) who theorized that “there are two things that can go wrong in childhood: Things that happen that shouldn’t happen – trauma such as abuse and neglect – and things that should happen that don’t happen – such as being unloved and emotionally abandoned.”

My experience is based on my time as a trauma therapist but also from personal experiences that have caused me to re-evaluate all I do and say, especially with my children. It may already seem that I must have been raised in a difficult home. When others looked at my home life, they were very envious of what I came from. My best friend came from a broken home with an alcoholic step father and a very verbally and physically abusive mother. He loved the times he spent at my house as it was his escape from the chaos and feelings of hate, abandonment, and neglect. However, there are always different perspectives on the same situation and my perspective was much different than my friends.

I grew up in a religious home from the time I was seven. My parents immigrated to Canada from England with a one-year-old baby and another on the way. They came to a new country knowing no one as my father came to work for a family that needed a mechanic. They were isolated, alone, scared, and barely knew one another (met and married within three months).

My mother was raised in a very abusive home by her grandmother and she carried this pain and feelings of abandonment and neglect into her own family. For her to feel loved, she felt like she had to save everyone and be there for everyone. This resulted in many hours at the church helping others and bringing in countless numbers of young men who she took under her wings. My father was depressed and struggling with Colitis and the medication that resulted in extreme mood swings. We never knew what mood he would be in when he arrived home.

It took me many years of self-awareness and reflection to understand that how I respond to my wife now, my ex-wife in the past, and other females over the years was what I was missing with my own mother. I felt completely rejected and unloved during those years. I felt like I was not good enough, otherwise why would she need to bring in other young males to make her feel good about herself. Fortunately, I have a good relationship with my mother so we have been able to discuss this over the years, even more recently so I have had the opportunity to express my feelings and begin the work towards becoming a more securely attached husband, son, father, and brother. I am coming to understand that none of us is really aware what someone else is going through and even if their issues do not seem as big as our issues, it may be catastrophic to them.

We need to support everyone for where they are at with love, acceptance, kindness, and a non-judgmental attitude. We need to foster safety, comfort, and openness so those who need to talk, share, and become more self-aware have the opportunity to do so without fear or worry. We all have a unique story that needs to be heard. The more we listen, the more we hear and the more we understand. Vulnerability is true strength. I encourage everyone reading this blog to find someone you feel comfortable with to open up and share your story.

Written by Stephen Roberts, RPC – Guidance Professional Services Inc.

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.