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Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

The past few months have been difficult.  Not all the time, but a lot of it.

I’ve been hiding away a lot, going out to do what I have to do and the rest of the time staying home, in my safe, sanctuary of a flat.  I love my bed.  It is comfortable, soft and makes me feel safe.

Tomorrow afternoon I am speaking to a group of women at Women Talk Fernie.  The title of my presentation is “All You Need Is Love” and in it I will talk about how society views “normal”, how many times I’ve had to “come out” in various ways in my life and why the struggle is real.  I’m excited to hear more than a dozen other speakers talking about many different subjects.  I expect to come away from the day transformed.

After the dust settles tomorrow, I’m going to share the written presentation here.  And I want your feedback.  Most of what I’m going to share will not be news to you, dear reader, but for some, it may be.

I’m going to talk about what it is to be vegetarian, a follower a Jesus, a Seminarian and then Priest, a Queer woman, and a person who struggles with Mental Illness.  The talk will be roughly 20 minutes long and will end with song.  Why?  Because I can.

Thanks for sticking with me when I didn’t have much to say…or didn’t post for months.

Thanks for your comments and encouragement.  Your prayers and your love.

I can honestly say I’m feeling better…and that feels grand.

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I have a love/hate relationship with technology.   It can keep us in touch with the entire world, and it can also become our entire world.

We live in a world where we can shop for most anything 24 hours a day.  In some instances we need never leave our homes.  We can work from home, shop from home, order food, clothing, books, etc. etc. etc. online.  If you have a credit card or a Paypal account you can live with no human interaction.

I live in a small town.  I bank at our local credit union.  I go into the bank about half the time and use the ATM the other half the time.  I love that I can walk into the Credit Union and the tellers know my name.  You don’t get that from an ATM.

At one of our grocery stores in town (we have two) there are self-checkout terminals.  I’m of two minds with them.  If I need just a few things I’ll usually use the self-checkout as it’s quick and easy.  If I have a lot of groceries I’ll go to the cashier.

I used to order many things online.  I’ve stopped doing that if what I want or need is something I can source locally.  I like supporting local businesses and the local economy.

There are times when I find myself staring at a screen for far too long.  I can easily spent too much time looking at social media instead of getting something productive done, like reading or napping.  🙂

I made the decision in December to stop using the calendar feature on my phone.  I’ve been using a paper calendar and it’s been working out beautifully.  I can keep tabs on each day with a month at a glance and then jot down specifics of each day’s activities in the week at a glance feature.  There I record my mood, pain, headaches (if any), as well as large purchases, budget items, etc.  Makes it easy to look back at the month and plan ahead much more easily.

I’m beginning to break my cell phone obsession.  I use it primarily for texting, phone calls, scanning news apps, playing a few games and, yes, Facebook.  I’ve decided, in the future, when I purchase a new cell phone to go with a more basic model of smart phone and then purchase a basic tablet to use for apps, Facebook, games, reading and whatnot.  Keep technology separate.

The other day I “lost” my cell phone.  I didn’t realise it was missing for a couple of hours and when I remembered where it was (at the Church) I didn’t rush over to get it.  I had to be back at the Church in two more hours so I waited until then.  It felt kind of good to know that it was safe and I didn’t need it in my hand.

So I’m going to continue toning down my technology impulses until my mobile phone is for communication and not entertainment.  And a tablet is for entertainment and communication.  Where I can leave one or both at home and not be stressed or concerned.  Where I can attend a meeting and not have to continually check on messages.  I may even buy myself a watch so I don’t have to fret about the time…

For now I will continue in a digital detox, and spend my free time looking up, instead of staring into a screen.  I will be outside in Creation, rather than inside and fretting.

To some, it may seem a step back, but to me, it is a step in the best direction for me.  I admire folks who can do everything on their smart phone and have no need of paper.  I really like paper, and I like having a visual calendar at the ready.  Looking at an electronic calendar for me, is not the same.

I yearn for a simpler time when I didn’t have to be so connected.  And I’m working, in smaller and in larger ways towards that goal.

So if you call, email or text me, please don’t panic if I don’t answer right away.  Chances are I’m in the middle of something that needs my attention, I’m in a meeting which I don’t want to interrupt, or my phone is somewhere I am not.  I will return your email, text or phone call.  I promise.  Not immediately, but I will.

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This year, 2019 has brought loads of emotions and energies that need addressing.  Each year for the past few years I’ve chosen a word that has been my focus for the year.  Last year it was balance…and that didn’t work out so well.  🙂  This year the word is change.

There are many things that I need to work on in myself.  Many things that need to change and I’m the only one that can change them.  I need to put myself as a much higher priority in my life.

Over the past few months I’ve realised that I don’t care for myself as well as I care for others.  I’ve come to the realisation that I’ve not properly cared for myself, I’ve not properly prioritised myself.  And this year, 2019, that will change.

I need to be gentler with myself.  I want to be healthier in myself.  I must guard my free time and time off better than I have been doing.  And these are things that only I can do.

I am eating healthier.  I am keeping a journal.  I am working with my doctor and a small team of support folks to hold me accountable.  To make sure I rest, I eat, I mediate, I exercise, and most importantly, that I laugh.

I will learn to say no and not feel guilt.  I will be more discerning to that which I say yes. I will learn to fall in love with myself…because really, I’m a pretty neat person.

This year will be the year I dig deep, turn myself inside out, and remind myself of who I truly am.  I will be a priority in my life.  I will learn to love myself…to truly love everything about me, including my many flaws.  My goal will be to see me as God sees me.  And that’s going to take a LONG time.  But hey, time I have.

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I like to travel and experience new things.  I like to check things out and when I go to a new place I like to use public transportation and walk wherever possible.

One of the challenges of hearing impairment is I often cannot hear airport and transit announcements.  They all sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher, if you know what I mean.

Last summer I heard about a wonderful conference called Spirit Pride and it looked like an awesome opportunity to connect with folks in the LGBTQ+ community who are people of faith.  Sometimes we hear that being a Queer Christian is an oxymoron.  Well, it’s not.

On Friday, what would have been my Dad’s 86th birthday I drove to the next community over to fly from their airport to Vancouver.  I don’t like to fly.  I’m not sure what it is, but I’m not a huge fan of airplanes, which is ironic as my brother is a pilot.  It is what it is.

While I’m at the airport very early I hear that the flight is delayed an hour.  Instant panic.  My carefully scheduled plan of how to get from the South Terminal to the Main Terminal to the Canada Line to the hotel and to the Church for the Conference is now scuppered.  Heart starts racing, breathing is shallow and I find myself getting lightheaded.

I walked to the closest window and looked outside at the mountains.  And concentrated on my breathing…and then I started to relax.  I sat down and read my book.  I negotiated with myself…”okay, if we arrive on time, I can get to the Shuttle to the Main Terminal and then find the station to get on the SkyTrain.  I can check in, freshen up and take in the opening and the film screening tonight”.

As we flew I kept checking schedules and making notes.  Maybe I’d have to skip checking into the hotel, could do that after the film screening.  Ugh.

We landed, I got off the plane, found the exit to the terminal and there was a shuttle bus waiting.  I climbed on and we drove to the main terminal.  Traffic was heavy and slow.  I watched the time ticking along feeling more and more anxious.  Concentrated on my breathing.  “you got this, you got this”.

Arrived at the main terminal.  The shuttle driver pointed to where I needed to go to catch the SkyTrain and I started to relax a little.  Waked to the SkyTrain terminal, bought a ticket and waited 2 minutes for the train to arrive.  By my calculations I had 20 minutes to get to the Church before the opening ceremonies and the film screening.

Then I remembered it was my dad’s birthday.  He’d have been 86.  He was never in a hurry and seldom on time.  He didn’t fight time, he flowed with it.  So I made a decision, not to worry about the time, to look around and breathe.  So I did.

I got off the train and started walking, realising after about 5 minutes, it was the wrong way.  I laughed and asked to pet a dog.  Asked directions to the hotel, and was told politely, how to get there.  I looked around, smiled and asked to pet many more dogs.

Got to the hotel and the check in time was excruciating.  And it was now 10 minutes after the opening had started.  I gave myself permission to not attend the opening and screening.  I began to focus on my breathing.  And then it was my turn to check in.  I found my room, turned on the air conditioner, freshened up and went for a walk to check out the neighbourhood.

I found a dog park and petted many, many dogs and chatted with many people.

Eventually I found the Church and by this time it was 8:30.  I didn’t go in.  I walked around that neighbourhood, found another dog part and petted many more dogs.  Felt my blood pressure lessen and my heart rate drop.  Felt myself relax and enjoy my surroundings.

Went for a walk back to the hotel and saw several people with needles preparing to shoot up.  Said silent prayers for them, and found another way back to the hotel.  Stopped at the hotel restaurant, a sports bar, and realised I was the only woman in the place.  Took a seat at the bar, ordered a beer for my dad and asked for a menu.  Had supper, a second beer and took another walk in a different direction.  Saw the Yaletown Roundhouse platform.

Went back to my hotel room and settled in for the night.

The conference was wonderful and I enjoyed all of it.  I walked whenever there was a break, to check out the neighbourhood and gave thanks that I don’t live in a big city.  I don’t have to worry about heavy traffic, street lights, and too many people.

After the last session on Saturday I walked to Gastown and checked it out.  Then I walked back to my hotel, taking a long way around.  Enjoying the sights and sounds of the city, knowing that the next day I’d be heading home.

Sunday I got up early and checked out.  Walked a different way to the Church and visited with the folks who were setting up for worship.  Checked out the hymns and order of service and waited, in prayer and silence for worship to begin.  It was wonderful and lasted nearly two hours.

Then I said goodbye to the organizers and Church Minister.  I walked down to the sea wall, backpack on my back and made the long trip home.  I arrived very early to the SkyTrain, and very early to catch the shuttle between terminals.  I didn’t stress or fret because I had lots of time and a good book to read.

I walked around the outside of the terminal and petted some dogs.  I walked around inside the terminal and looked at the artwork, and read some of the history of the airport.

Then I cleared security and waited to board the aircraft.  I explained to the customer service rep that I don’t hear the announcements very well and he promised he’d let me know when it was coming time to board.  And he did.

My car was where I left it, and I drove home as the day began to fade to night.  It was a wonderful conference.  I learned a lot and made some contacts.  I also learned to trust myself and to let some stuff go.  I’m still a nervous traveller and always will be.

I learned that I can be afraid and still do something.  After all, isn’t that the definition of courage?

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CAMH or Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is hosting an event called “One Brave Night”.  The idea behind it is  between now and Friday 6th April as an individual or a team you promote CAMH and their mental health services.  As an individual I’m going to use that night to keep silent, mediate and pray.  I will journal, remember and likely, also cry.

This coming Monday, the 2nd of April I will enter five days of silence.  I will be travelling to a retreat house and spending time there in silence.  During that time I will do many of the same things I intend to do during One Brave Night.

Silence is not difficult for me.  Although I do talk a lot, when I make the decision to not speak, I can do it.  The first few hours are difficult because my ears are ringing.  My mind starts racing and I feel strange, but once I relax into silence it’s beautiful.

Things appear sharper.  Sounds are clearer.  My mind thinks clearer.  It’s difficult to explain if you’ve never spent time in silence.  I don’t mean a couple of hours at home, but days out in the world.

It’s interesting how little talking you need to do to function in the world.  With technology today you can pump gas, buy groceries, and use a bank machine without speaking.  Facial expressions, gestures, all easy to replace conversation.  And with it being more and more difficult to make eye contact with people, verbal conversation is not as necessary as it once was.

One Brave Night will be, for me, the end of a week of silence. It will be an opportunity to do some deep reflection…to truly listen for the voice of the Divine.  So often, when I’m in prayer I’m speaking without listening.  I hurry through my petitions, thinking of what I’m going to do or say next.  I don’t usually allow myself to take the time to deeply listen.  But next week that will all change.

I intend to journal, to breathe deeply, to see more clearly, to listen intently and to “recalibrate” myself.  And I can’t wait.

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Today is the 31st of January, Bell Let’s Talk Day.  As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, I am absolutely aware of the dangers of isolation.  I am aware of the shame that accompanies the struggles in getting out of bed, forcing yourself to get dressed, plaster on a smile and pretend that everything is okay.  Then, at the first available opportunity dashing home, closing the curtains, turning off the lights and rocking in the silence.

I’m grateful that I’ve not had many of these days lately, but there have been some.  And they frighten me because I’m never sure when they will pass.  If I’m completely honest, when I’m going through them I’m not sure THAT they will pass.  But as the sun rises tomorrow, the new day dawns, with time these feelings pass.

It’s been a very hectic few weeks with multiple deaths in the congregation and the community.  Since the beginning of January there have been 5 deaths.  Last week I presided funerals on Monday and Friday.  This Saturday I will preside two funerals in one day, which is highly unusual, but in this case, absolutely necessary.

Next weekend I’m on stage as part of the Vagina Monologues.  I’m excited and terrified at standing on stage in a local venue and baring my soul for strangers.  I play the role of a transgender woman who discovers she’s different at a young age.  The monologue contains humour, rage, and at times poignant moments.  It will be a challenge, but at the same time I’m excited to have this opportunity.  It will take me places I have never been before and while I do have deep-seated anxiety about forgetting my lines or somehow letting down the other cast members, I know I can do this.  I know I will make this happen.  There will be friends in the audience who will be there to support me.  And it will be amazing.

Behind my left ear I have a tattoo.  It is of an infinity symbol with a semi-colon over the cross in the infinity symbol.  I see it every time I look in a mirror and it has generated some wonderful conversations.  Recently, at a funeral reception someone noticed it and asked what it was about.  I told them: the infinity symbol reminds me that I will struggle with mental health issues for the rest of my life; and the semi-colon tells me that my story is not yet over.  She looked up at said “I’d never have guessed you have anxiety and depression.  You look so pulled together and confident.”  I smiled and thanked her for the compliment.

Yes, I could have corrected her about the fear I feel.  But I decided to accept her compliment with grace.

On this day I wanted to jot down a few meanderings on what Mental Health Awareness means to me.  It means standing up and telling your story; without shame or fear.  It means asking people to share their stories.  It means being a person with whom others can share without judgment or criticism.  You will never hear me say “Snap out of it”.  Because I’ve had that said to me, and it’s not helpful.

I am an advocate for many things…and the biggest thing I advocate with Mental Health Awareness is that we are not alone.  We are not ashamed.  We are warriors.

So, let’s talk…

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Balance is a strange word…it has multiple meanings.  My sense of balance isn’t great, ask anyone whose walked beside me and I careen into them.   The balance I’m talking about is life balance.  I am my own worst critic and my own worst enemy.  I am harder on myself then anyone else has eve been, and I’ve had some critics and enemies.

The still small voice gets loud at times and tells me I’m worthless, useless, lazy, stupid, etc.  The well part of my brain tells me to ignore the voice, or fight back against that voice.  The sick part of my brain says “See?  Told ya!”

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.  I find winter difficult for many reasons.  So knowing I’m already emotionally “down” in the darker months, why set myself up for failure with promises I mean when I make them, but don’t really think them through…so for this year, as I was sitting at home with a glass of wine and a purring cat a word came to me — BALANCE.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.  It can be both/and.  I can be conscious of my health and still enjoy a lazy day at home or an ice cream when I’m out.  I can walk 10,000 steps some days and 3,000 another.  I can sleep a full night and have a nap, or work through the night and sleep part of the day.  Balance.

I am many things to many people and I believe I treat everyone the same.  Or that is my intention.  I am drawn to the underdog…to the one who feels invisible.  That is the story I seek.  And in most cases as trust is earned and stories are shared, there is a great deal of similarity.

There was a funeral for a gentleman from the congregation in early January.  He was a much-loved member of the congregation and the community.  The Church was filled to capacity (and then some) and we laughed, cried and remembered him.  I have another funeral on Monday for a gentleman I knew through visiting and services at a local retirement home.  He has a similar story to R.  But a very different story as well.  Isn’t that the same for all of us?

Our stories overlap with others, our experiences are similar until they are not.  We make choices that don’t seem to matter hundreds of times a day.  And on occasion we make choices are that more difficult.  There is always choice.

I eat as well as I can but on occasion I like to treat myself.  I like to eat something that I don’t usually have at home…or enjoy dessert.  I’m beginning to learn that food is not punishment or reward…it’s simply something with which to fuel our bodies.  I just re-read the first sentence in this paragraph…and I’ve got some work to do with my relationship to food.  BALANCE.

I love the way my body feels when I move it.  I joined a gym and go when I can…which is not often enough.  I walk as much as I can and sometimes that’s just around the block or across town and back.  I do yoga and I meditate, focusing on breathing.  I will not be an extreme athlete or run triathlons because I don’t want to.

My big purchase this Spring will be a bicycle.  One with a few gears that I can use to get around town.  Not off-road or in the bush, but on the trails and streets of town.

For the first time, likely ever in my life, I’m feeling good about who I am and how I look.  I’m working on lowering the numbers on the scale, and I’ve realised that those numbers do not define who I am as a woman of God, as priest, as a friend.  I may be fat, but I’m also kind, generous, loving.  I am respected in my vocation and in my community.  In my own small way I make a difference in the lives of others, in this community and in the world.

I am me, because that’s the only person I can be.  Everyone else is taken.

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