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This edition of Friends Friday comes to us courtesy of a guest who generously wrote on behalf of the Breaking Free Foundation to assist our application for provincial funding to continue our Therapy Grants program. We thank you for your kind words and expression of generosity and gratitude as we endeavour to help make trauma healing more accessible for everyone. 

I cannot express in words the gratitude and appreciation I have for the Breaking Free Foundation.

I discovered the Foundation when I was in the middle of reading Theo Fleury’s book, Playing With Fire, that was in August of 2016. I read what they were about and decided that this sounded like a place for me to be. At that point in time I was at my lowest of lows. I had been laid off from my job, I was separated from my boyfriend, and had contemplated taking my own life. The next meeting coming up was three weeks from when I discovered the foundation. That felt like the longest three weeks of my life, just trying to breathe and get out of bed each day was a chore.

The day of the meeting I found myself in the parking lot 30 minutes early. I sat in my car debating with myself whether I should go in or not. I made the best decision of my life by going in which took every ounce of courage I had. When I walked in my head was down and I did not have any confidence or self-esteem, I was scared to death. When Theo came in and came over and introduced himself, he made me feel more comfortable and his persona put me at some ease. The meet-up was three hours, and in that time I was surrounded by a group of people that were all there for the same reason. To be able to either speak of their trauma or just listen and gain some insight on some helpful techniques on how to deal with different issues. I had it in my mind that night that I would just listen but when the conversations started and I discovered that there are a lot of other people out there that have been through child sexual abuse, I found myself telling my story. I felt so comfortable, safe and was not judged in any way. I had never felt that before and to be able to be with other people that could understand what I went through.

It is one year later, and in that year I made the decision to return to school and receive a diploma in the medical field, my relationship with my boyfriend went from a separation to a marriage in August. He has told me he can see the huge strides I have been able to make with my confidence, attitude towards life, well, everything. I now walk into the meet-ups with my head held high and a smile on my face, I look forward to our meetings every month. They always give me that extra boost I need by that time.

I have also witnessed the transformation of other people in the group as they attend more and more meet-ups. Myself, as well as others that would always cry speaking out about their trauma, can do so now without tears. I have made some really good friends in the group and we support each other between meetings.

The Breaking Free Foundation has helped so many people but there is such a long waiting list for the therapy program. Without this foundation I’m not sure what path my life would have taken, if any.

Resilient You, some days just don’t feel resilient at all. Some days the wounds of our story affect the way we think, feel, breathe. The rough stuff of life affects our deepest Self – it reaches right to our soul.

Care for our souls isn’t always top-of-mind. For some of us, the religious connotation of the word is enough to send us reeling with triggers and memories. But she’s in there – our deepest, most authentic, most true-to-us Self. She needs as much tenderness as the rest of our being.

Parker Palmer says, “The soul is like a wild animal—tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek.” (Parker J. Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life)

Are you tending to your “wild animal” Self? She may be hard to recognize if she’s been in hiding for a while…or forever. The thought of coaxing the soul out of hiding may feel overwhelming and scary: what will happen if I wake up the deepest parts of myself? Am I safe?

The wounds we bear from trauma can act like a violent act of nature, re-routing us into a life course that feels unfair, dangerous, broken. Facing into that violence is frightening. So Truest Self shrinks into isolation and invisibility, inoculating herself as best she can from further suffering. It’s almost like we fall asleep to entire parts of ourselves as we numbly attempt to tend, tend, tend to the wounds of our hearts and minds and bodies. Those wounds can be so painful and messy that we might lose the heart and energy needed to feel past their searing disruption and into the Self that is beneath them.

That frightened-into-hiding Soul that is longing for belonging, and safety, and some kind of power in her own life.

But our soul is where Hope lives. A very little time spent “sitting at the base of a tree” and coaxing her out has a healing effect on the rest of our traumatized selves.

I wonder what it might be like for us to think about showing a little compassion to our Souls? What does that even look like? Feel like? How do we begin to think-see-feel past the wounding of trauma and get to know the Self that has been buried beneath it?

What if I:

  • Make friends with silence. Sit in silence. What happens there? What do I feel? Could my soul have some things she’d like to say?
  • Think my thoughts. My deep thoughts. Not the surface-y, “I just have to get through this day!” freaked-out thoughts, but my, “I wonder what my life has to offer me? I wonder what my life has to offer a hurting world?” thoughts.
  • Or don’t think my thoughts. What if I sit in silence without any expectation or demand on myself. Could I be so very kind to my weary self, patiently inviting my deepest Goodness to wake up and offer a shifting perspective on what life is all about?
  • Read poetry…slowly.
  • Actually sit at the base of a tree, or by a river, or anywhere that undisturbed Nature is in sight. She has a way of touch-healing my wounds in ways that my endless thinking and striving cannot.
  • Find a listener who is comfortable with pauses and stillness and waiting for my story to come alive.
  • Tell my stories. To that really good listener. To someone who will hold them sacredly and patiently.

What else? When you (take a deep breath in, hold, let it go) consider (just even toy with the idea) of inviting your soul out of hiding, what comes to mind as, “Hmmmm. I wonder if I could do more of ___________…”? There’s no gold star to earn here. Just a gentle invitation to our souls to come out into the open. To be seen. To be known. To live free.

May we have the courage today

To live the life that we would love

To postpone our dreams no longer

But do at last what we came here for

And waste our heart on fear no more…

~J O’Donahue~

 

submitted by Sandra McDonald

Now that Christmas and New Year’s are behind us, all the talk is around whether people are still making resolutions or not. The general consensus is that they set us up for defeat and that very few people are successful at maintaining their resolution.

I’m glad I started this #BF4ME challenge in November because I’m one of those people who could care less about resolutions, I just want to change and grow year round. It does, however, give each of us an opportunity to reflect on what went well last year, what didn’t, and what we can choose to do differently in 2018.

I for one, was happy to say buh-bye to 2017, let me tell you! I did wake up on January 1st, however, with firm resolve. It was a knowing deep down that this year would be different.


re·solve

rəˈzälv/
verb
1.
settle or find a solution to (a problem, dispute, or contentious matter)
“the firm aims to resolve problems within 30 days”
synonyms: settle, sort out, solve, find a solution to, fix, straighten out, deal with, put right, put to rights, rectify
2.
decide firmly on a course of action
“she resolved to call Dana as soon as she got home”
synonyms: determine, decide, make up one’s mind, make a decision | “Bob resolved not to wait any longer”

Resolve doesn’t have a date attached to it, nor does it require creating a habit of some sort.

My paraphrase to the dictionary definition is to make a firm decision to solve a problem. My way of dealing with my health was to make a firm decision to enter a marathon, announce it publicly, and use it to inspire others to not only get active but to find ways to take control of their own journeys and destinies. It comes back to the recognition that bad things have happened, but how I move forward is completely in my control – my attitudes, my actions, my thought processes, and how I want to “be and do” in this world.

Saying that I have had some serious epiphanies in the past couple of weeks and have made some strides towards change:

  1. I am an enabler. I had to choose my own mental health over that of another, and it was gut-wrenching to verbalize my boundaries, knowing they would be met with anger, and it wasn’t even my kids! I also had to recognize that others’ choices are not my responsibility. While I know this in my head, I would just rather look after things (or people) because it’s much easier that way.
  2. If I’m not okay, the influence on my kids and those I care about will be negatively impacted. It’s quite preferable that we look after ourselves, considering that none of us can pour from an empty cup. This has smacked me in the face repeatedly over the holidays, so much so that I have told my teenagers that I’m on a staycation for the next two weeks. What that looks like is them taking care of themselves while I take care of me. So hard to do, and it’s going to be very challenging to follow through on it.
  3. I know that I know this is the year my health takes precedence, and that I am actually going to make sure of it. Between ensuring my brain gets what it needs, to finding sleep solutions, to setting emotionally healthy boundaries, to food choices, to .. ugh .. running to prepare for a 5K marathon, to reflecting on my spirituality, it all matters. Every bit that makes up me is part of my #BF4ME challenge this year, and I know I’m going to win!

So there’s my resolve. Now to how things have been progressing.

The Good | finding joy

  1. I decided not to weigh myself over the next months while preparing for the High Altitude Challenge in August, but rather measure my progress with size change, muscle tone and my ability to actually run. It was a mental boost the second I chose this path.
  2. Kombucha! I’ve discovered that drinking 2.5 ounces before coffee or breakfast has improved my gut health immensely, as well as the acid reflux that has been tormenting me.
  3. Christmas with my parents. I’ve never had my family members in my home at Christmas and I’m more than grateful for the memories.
  4. A wedding. My kids and I were invited to share a special day with friends, a wedding that was planned in a week! It was beautiful and pretty perfect.
  5. I attended a meditation workshop presented by one of our BFF volunteers. My head knows the value of deep breathing, my discipline (or lack thereof), however, has not followed suit. If you’re not sure what meditation actually is or how it works, this Meditation to Embrace Difficulty & Open Your Heart to 2018 is an easy to follow, helpful introduction.
  6. I fully enjoyed the season and didn’t worry about much, outside of the crappy night my kids had with their dad. [read more here]
  7. The Simply Fit Board I received for Christmas is pretty great [unbiased review]. I could never have guessed something so “simple” could work so well. It will be the key to my winter activity, and I actually enjoy using it.
  8. I’ve implemented boundaries and self-care priorities, and I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. A friend of mine suggested that maybe dealing with some of that emotional weight may influence my physical health. I think she may be right!

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” ~Sigmund Freud

The Bad | stuff that didn’t go well

I ate too much. It was a deep freeze in Calgary, and we mostly hibernated which equals to no gains towards increased activity. The Simply Fit Board is helping with that.

The Ugly

Addressing the choices I’ve made or am making to inhibit healthy living – emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually and financially – has been eye-opening but certainly no fun. One step, one day at a time. The ugly has been the internal struggle, the tears and the feeling of being alone (even though I know that’s so not true!).

When you’re trying to retrain your brain, being kind to yourself is paramount. This article on Forbes.com about changing negative thoughts was helpful for me.

As happy as I am that 2017 is behind me, I’m just as happy to see what unfolds in 2018!

Resources

Join the #BF4ME (Breaking Free 4 Me) Community on Facebook

6 Life Lessons Learned From Running

21 Ways to Help Yourself Heal | #9 is my challenge to myself this week! I’ve never successfully accomplished that one.

Vulnerability seems to have been one of my strengths throughout my life. This video is so powerful, bears watching again and again, and will provide insight on why it’s so important: