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Posts Tagged ‘depression’

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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Tomorrow is the 25th of January, Bell Canada’s “Let’s Talk” initiative to help quell the stigma of mental illness.  Celebrities have recorded brief interviews and have stepped up in raising awareness of depression, anxiety, OCD, Bipolar disorder, etc.

As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety the past couple of months have been scary.  I am a Canadian, and proud to be one.  Our neighbours to the south elected a new President and it seems the world has been in a tailspin since.  Every day the rhetoric increases, the attacks get more personal and social media is reaching a frenzy status on who is right and who is wrong.

What scares me is the increasing vitriolic hatred that both sides of the debate engage.  There is hurt and anger and a decided lack of respect.  There seems to be no acknowledgment of the other side as a human being.  Memes spring up everywhere and there are veritable twitter wars and Facebook battles over who is right and who is wrong.  Over who is telling the truth and who is lying.

We seem to have lost the respect of basic human dignity.  Regardless of whether you are a supporter or protester of POTUS, we need to come together in unity.  He needs to be held accountable.  We need to ensure our voices are raised in unison.  Can we please, please stop with the division and hatred.

I don’t like being told that as I woman “I must” feel a certain way or behave in a certain manner.  I don’t appreciate being told as a Christian “I must” say certain things and if I fail to do so I am a disgrace to Christianity.

I am a child of God.  So are you.  So is POTUS.  So is our Prime Minister.  So is everyone we meet.

I’m tired of the anger.  I’m tired of the hurt.  I’m tired of the hatred. I want to join the revolution of love.  I want to change the world with respect; with words of empowerment and love.  I can and will change how I view the world by looking through lenses of love and respect.

I short, I refuse to hate.

My mental health is always fragile in January…I’m not really sure why…but it is and I tend to cocoon more than usual, trying to stay warm and safe.

I am blessed in being surrounded by people who love me.  Who hold me when I cry, who bolster me when I struggle.  Who check in because I am on their mind and in their heart. I am blessed to love many of those who surround me.  And lately, I’ve begun to fall in love with myself.

I know I am not perfect.  I never will be.  And that’s okay.  In God’s eyes I am created in perfection and that’s more than good enough for me.

There is a South African word, Ubuntu, that means “I am because you are”.  In other words, I can’t be who I am without you.  It doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree and think the same.  It means we have the right and even the responsibility to disagree and hold one another accountable for our words and actions.  It means we are all in this life together.  It’s a way of living, an understanding, that is both powerful and profound.

If we embrace Ubuntu, perhaps we, together, can change this cruel world in which we live?

As always, I live in love and in hope.

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I struggle, at times, with depression and anxiety.  Most of the time I can cope with medication, relaxation, proper diet, exercise and rest.  Lately I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed, and it’s completely understandable why I’m feeling this way.

On Friday I’m having surgery.  For the second time in my life I will go under general anesthetic.  I’m not afraid of the surgery.  The surgeon has reassured me that he anticipates the procedure will go well.  The procedures I’m having are minor, taking 20 minutes in total.  The anesthesiologist has reassured me that all shall be well.  She asked if I was nervous and I said I wasn’t and smiled.  She asked why I was smiling and I replied “if things don’t go well, it won’t be my problem…it will be yours.  As you’ll get to tell my congregation”. And we both laughed.

What I fear is the unknown.  Which is truly a silly thing to fear.  And I participate in mental gymnastics…what if I get an infection…what if it takes me hours to come out of the anesthetic…what if something goes wrong?  All legitimate questions, all with unknown answers.  Try to explain that to my anxiety.

I’m not worried about the congregation.  My Wardens and Licensed Lay Ministers will take care of everything in the parish.  My Regional Dean will look after any pastoral emergencies.  And still my innards flutter.

So, between now and Thursday morning when I find out the actual time of the surgery I will keep myself busy, which isn’t difficult to do.  The difficult part is remembering to take time to breathe, to care for myself…to do everything I can to release the anxiety I feel.

I’m staying with a good friend in the community where I’m having the surgery to make sure that I properly rest and don’t overdo things.  Left to my own devices I would push myself too hard and too soon.  I’m told it will be approximately 10 days before I can return to work…I’m giving myself 14 days.  And I fully anticipate returning to work at a bit slower pace then I am maintaining right now.

If you are a person who prays, I ask for your prayers for myself, and also for the doctor’s, nurses and support staff who will take care of me through the surgery.  I ask for your prayers for those who will care for me after the surgery until I am able to care for myself.

Thanks!

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It’s now official…the announcements have been made, emails sent and articles written.  I am leaving my current post to travel across four provinces, over 3,000 kms to a new posting in a small town in southeastern British Columbia.

I’ve never lived outside of Ontario.  I’m excited and terrified all at the same time.  Information on how to change my license plates from Ontario to British Columbia, changing my health card, registering for health insurance as well as employee benefits, payroll, etc.

As a rule, I’m not big on farewells.  I don’t like a fuss.  However, I know there will be many folks I will likely never see again.  And that makes me sad. So that means there needs to be a gathering, or two.  The local Legion is providing a beautiful Going away party at the end of the month, the Saturday before I depart West.

My friends in the LGBTQ+ community is going to throw me a Bon Voyage party in the city on the Monday before I leave.  It’s going to be lovely to see everyone, but it’s going to be hard to say goodbye.  Yeesh.

So while I’m service planning here, I’m service planning there.  While I’m scheduling visits here, I’m thinking of who I should start with once I get there.

I know I have a lot to do, a great, huge to-d0 list and there will be some things on that list that don’t get done.  Some people I don’t get to see and that has to be okay.

To top it off, I slipped and fell the other day, wrenching my shoulder.  It’s quite painful and my range of mobility is limited.  I can’t lift, I can’t carry.  I can type and write for limited amounts of time.  I should be looking at this as God’s way of telling me to slow down.  But in reality it’s a pain the ass…or shoulder as the case may be.

So I suck it up, do my best and push through the pain.  Since I announced my departure there’s been a great burden lifted.  And in reassigning things to folks so they can take them over in my absence is quite liberating as well.  Writing up a list of passwords, that sort of thing.

This transition may turn out okay after all.

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I am less than a week away from two glorious weeks of vacation. And of course, we are in the midst of a horrendous heat wave in the part of the world where I live. So instead of bustling about, I’m sitting in front of a fan, praying for the weather to break.

I’ve got most of the big things in place to be away. I have the bulletins finished, just need to pick up one set from the printer. I have the readings selected and ready to go for the weeks I’m away. I have pastoral calls prepared for this week.

What I’ve not done yet is prepare my clothes, plan the itinerary and start packing. All of these things are fun but I need to get other things done first, including cleaning my house. Ugh. If only the weather would cooperate, so I could get up and do something without dissolving into a puddle, that would be awesome. C’mon Mother Nature, help me out here.

I am looking forward to two weeks of travel, leisure, yoga, stretching, fabulous food and drink, sleep and nature…not necessarily in that order. I have a new journal that I’m taking with me. I’ve not yet started writing in it, and I’m not sure why. But I’ll get there.

So, for the next couple of weeks, blog posts will be non-existent, but I promise to share all kinds of loveliness when I get back.

Can’t wait to get off the treadmill of “busy” for awhile. To redirect my rhythm and finally start to feel better. I am excited to feel better, for what will feel like the first time in a long time. But I can do it. I know I can. I have to.

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