Posts Tagged ‘talk’

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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Yesterday was our Annual Meeting. The meeting lasted nearly three hours. This is an inordinate amount of time, but there were some difficult discussions that needed to be made and the congregation present rose to the occasion. By the end of the meeting I was physically and emotionally spent, but spiritually energised.

The Church as an institution is in trouble. It has been for a while. And there are numerous studies that tell us we should do this, try that, change, adapt or die. It’s easy for me, a relative newcomer to the area, to talk about losing our building and starting new. The reality is something very different.

In my life I try to be environmentally conscious. I try to eat organic, buy local, support local business, lessen my carbon footprint, etc. I buy biodegradable laundry and dish soap and don’t have a dishwasher. And yet, I get my hair professionally highlighted. I wear makeup that is for sensitive skin, but is not vegan or organic.

I stopped drinking alcohol and drink much more water than ever, but still drink coffee, mostly decaf, but occasionally high-test.

I try to encourage fair trade coffee and reusable mugs for our coffee hour. The first is a hard sell, the second is a given.

I’m realizing that while I give a 5% household tithe to the Church, I could do more. I give of myself as much as I can, often more than I can, and still; I’m never sure it’s enough.

So over the past couple of days I’ve began to realise that I can’t do it all.

I cannot be everything to everyone.

I cannot single handedly save the world.

But I can do my part.

I can live my life in a more mindful manner. Being fully aware of my surroundings, of what and how I eat. I can show my daughter what I have learned and learn also from her.

I may not always get it right, but I can and will, keep going.

Today was a snow day for my daughter. The buses were cancelled. The snow was drifted badly and it was really cold. So I stayed in my pjs for the morning and watched Netflix. There was a great deal of stuff that needed doing. But I didn’t do it. And shockingly, the world did not stop turning.

I shut off my cell phone. I did not check email. And at 2:00 pm I turned on my cell phone and I did check my email. I made a list of things to do this week, and then I meditated for 45 minutes. It felt great.

You know that I am not a fan of resolutions. I prefer intentionality. My intentions are to take my medication and supplements properly every single day. My intentions are to exercise my body, heart, mind and soul every single day. My intentions are to be mindful in everything I say, so and buy. I reckon with time it will be easier to be mindful and I won’t have to work so hard at it.

I may be wrong, but that’s a chance I am willing to take.

I am learning to identify my emotions. One that is most difficult for me to identify is anger. It was recently pointed out to me that I am angry. At first I resisted. And then as I began to identify physical posture, general feelings, etc., I realised that I am angry. At many people. For many things. And I’m working through it as best I can. I am also seeking professional help, which I believe will be the most helpful thing I can do for myself.

A year ago I would have been in a state because the package of information from the Annual Meeting wasn’t ready to go immediately following the meeting. This year it’s not ready to go, but will be by the end of the week. I will drop it off in the City next Monday. And the world will not stop turning.

I am not perfect…nowhere near it. I am human. I am flawed. And as a good friend of mine says often…I am keeping it real.

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In my job I am occasionally called on to listen while someone is in crisis. My usual reflex action was to listen, make noises (such as “Mm-Hmm” or “Yes, yes” etc) and to be thinking of what I was going to reply as the person was speaking. It was not usually effective and more often than not, left me feeling more anxious than when I sat down with the person.

Since I’ve started studying Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, I very aware of how I sit, how I come across, ensuring I am approachable and non-threatening.

A lady in my congregation is struggling with depression. She’s got anxiety that overwhelms and almost cripples her. She’s honoured me with her trust, in sharing when she’s in a shaky place and she’ll ask if she can come and have a chat. I always readily agree.

Recently she went on a cruise with her husband. A first for both of them. She was terribly fearful of the cruise, but knew it was important to her husband so she felt she had to go. The therapist she was seeing blamed her depression on her son’s suicide four years ago, and said that until she sorted herself out with that she would continue to be depressed. This therapist was not a good fit for her, and thankfully, she recognised that in herself.

What I do is not therapy. I am not a therapist. I am a priest, a spiritual advisor, and occasionally a confidante.

When she comes to see me, we sit in my office and I ask her how her day is going. She talks, and I listen. I may nod my head, but I don’t make affirming noises as they irritate me (so I can only imagine how irritating they are to the hearer) but I make sure to keep my focus on the person, without staring.

Often there are pauses. Sometimes she takes my hand or I take hers. Often there are tears. And through it all God is there. On Sunday, this lovely lady told me she wanted to resign from one of her multiple ministries in the Church. I accepted her resignation with sadness, but thankfulness and understanding.

She wanted to talk about the guilt she felt for “abandoning me” to that ministry. I listened to what she was saying and affirmed her gifts. I did not say “don’t be silly” because she’s already dealing with guilt. She doesn’t need to feel silly as well. When I told her of the ministries I saw her undertaking and loving service she had given the Church for several decades she brightened.

Someone had seen her…really seen her. She was being celebrated and honoured. And it will continue to happen. She has promised to continue as a resource for Parish information to me. She has promised if she doesn’t like the way I take on the ministry that she will tell me. And I have promised that she will always have my complete and utter support.

Tonight I am sitting down with a new friend who has been battered through his young life, by the Church. I am the first person of faith that he has reached out to in decades and I am both anxious and honoured to be meeting with him tonight. I have no agenda other than to listen. I will not take notes. I will be wholly and mindfully present.

I suspect there may be some tears. And lots of laughter as we have similar senses of humour. And at the end, perhaps there will be prayer.

I know that I am not God. I would not want God’s job. I’m too judgmental to be God.

I know that I am not Christ. I would not want Christ’s job. I’m too selfish to be Christ.

All I can be is me. All I can do is listen. And if, in being who I am, and listening as I do, I can help someone feel a little less lost, and little more found; then I have succeeded.

And it will be a good day.

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I am not a huge fan of retaliation. In fact, most often, it has been my experience that when one retaliates from a hurtful situation, it usually escalates. However, in this case, I believe retaliation is necessary.

Yesterday, after a particularly uplifting Church Service, I was standing in the Gathering Space chatting with one of my parishioners when another approached and asked if he could “have a word” with me. We moved to a quieter part of the Gathering Space and he said “Is it true?” I asked what he was talking about. He said “I’ve been deluged with emails that you’ve joined a gay choir. Is this true?”

My knee-jerk reaction was to get up in his face and teach him a thing or two. I did not do that. I guess that means my meds are working. 🙂 Instead, what I said was “Who has been causing this deluge?” He did not reply. I told him that it is no secret that I belong to a CHURCH CHOIR in the City that happens to have some gay members. Why is this a problem? He quickly backpedalled and said “You know I love you and it’s fine with me, but – ” “But what?” I asked, somewhat angrily. I did not give him a chance to reply. I reminded him that I have always been affirming of everyone.

I have invited the congregation to join the same choir I am in, and have invited them to come and hear the choir perform. I have never hidden that I am an ally. I told him that the Wardens are fully aware that I am a proud member of PFLAG, then I had to explain what PFLAG is.

Eventually, this parishioner said he thought I should be aware of “what people are saying”. I replied that I would prefer to know who these people are and that I would appreciate it if he would either forward me the emails OR respond to the people who were sending them, that they should speak to me directly.

Personally, I can’t stand he said/she said conversations. It is the same as leaving an unsigned note on my desk. I won’t respond to the criticism or the suggestion. I was furious after our conversation and I came home to calm down, to pray and reflect on it. And in the process of this, I decided to change the Church sign.

I usually change it every week or two and decided to change it yesterday. Every sign has contained the word “love” since the end of May. The sign now says “We do not need to think alike to love alike”.

Take THAT haters.
Here endeth the lesson.

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Yesterday I picked up my new glasses. They are bifocals and progressive lenses. It’s going to take some getting used to, but I quite like how they look and I love how crisp and clear things look. One drawback is I can’t see properly with them when I’m at my laptop, but I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time on the laptop so it shouldn’t be an issue.

Today I was to do some bookwork, update phone messages, and have lunch with a friend. Instead I’ve done the bookwork, had two cups of coffee and two beakers of sparkling water and feeling very, very nauseous. I’ve asked my friend for a raincheque and will head back to bed soon.

The past three days I’ve made it a priority to have a shower early in the day, get dressed and put on makeup. I’m experimenting with different colour combinations and some are lovely; others, not so much. I’m beginning to, once again, take pride in my appearance. For many years I’ve not worn makeup during Lent, but I begin to settle into what is simply laziness, that my appearance is not important.

And yet it is. I have clothing I wear for casual days around the house. I have clothing I wear for meetings in which I represent my church or the Church as a whole, the power suit, if you will. I have clothing I wear for going out with friends, not formal wear, but a dressier casual wear. And lest you think I have a massive walk in closet, I mix and match most everything. I can dress up or dress down a suit. Same with scarves and jewellery.

Spring is a great time for purging the closet of pieces that don’t work, don’t fit or haven’t been worn in a while. I try not to spend too much on any one piece, unless it’s something I love that I will wear for years. For the most part, everything I buy is on sale, and I don’t buy it unless it fits and looks good. A bonus is if I can wear it more than one way i.e. a blazer with jeans, dress pants or a skirt.

And now that the weather is attempting to warm up, it’s time to wear lighter fabrics, indoor shoes can be worn outdoors, and the heavy accessories can be put away in favour of lighter choices.

If only the temperature would cooperate and this nausea would abate, then I could actually enjoy the outdoors. For today I will likely stay in my nightwear, drink fluids, and head back to bed to see if I can sleep off whatever is unbalancing me just now.

Everyday is a gift, and every year is a mystery. I have worked for each and every wrinkle I have, and its time to celebrate coming of age, as woman in her mid-forties who is adjusting to bifocals. Thus far, I enjoy being a woman “of a certain age”.

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I received a phone call this morning from a young colleague in the community. She and I have done a couple of shared services and I enjoy and admire her energy and enthusiasm. In December we did a Service of Light and Remembrance for people who had suffered a loss or simply found a traditional Christmas service difficult.

On the week leading up to the service I was coming down with the ‘flu and by the day of the event I had little if any voice left. It was our turn to host and thus my turn to “preach”. My colleague did the lion’s share of the work and was happy to do so.

We massed her congregation and mine, her choir and mine. The turnout wasn’t exorbitant, but the weather was also iffy. At the end of the service I received many positive comments about my message and at the prospect of us working together again.

This morning she told me that her elders were “concerned” about her working with me because of the language I use. I try to keep my language as neutral as possible, but on occasion a rendering of vernacular slips into my message. I tried to remember which words may be considered inappropriate and couldn’t really come up with anything.

I know a time, not that long ago, when I would have been insulted and offended. But today I realised that the theological background of our two denominations is different and the language issue wasn’t necessarily the issue, but the theological language.

My colleague was hesitant to raise the issue, but I assured her it didn’t change how I felt about her, and the desire to continue working with her and the congregation.

So just before the morning Ash Wednesday service, I sent her an email with the history of ecumenism in my six years in the community, as well as a heartfelt apology for any words that may have offended. I also expressed a desire to work with her and her congregation on a go-forward basis.

She replied immediately, by email, that she was sure this would smooth some ruffled feathers and may open the way for the two of us to work together again.

I must admit, I swear worse than anyone I know. I can make sailors and truckers blush. I try not to let this language slip into homilies, but an occasional “that sucks” works it way in.

I know there are better ways to communicate, and I am going to try to use more neutral, but still accessible language in my homilies.

I don’t want anyone to feel they can’t say something to me, or I will be offended by their language. But I also appreciate when I am told that my language has offended. Because that is never my intention.

It is time for me to re-evaluate the words I use and how I use them. I will still be as accessible and transparent as I can be, while endeavouring to be more sensitive to how a word I use is received.

Blessed by the One who Created us, Sustains us, Nurtures us and Forgives us.

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In the media lately there’s been a lot of hype about the 12th of February as “Let’s talk about it” day to promote Mental Health Awareness.  The irony is that the 12th of February 2013 is Shrove Tuesday, the day when, historically, all fat i.e. butter, sugar, etc., was used up before Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of Lent.

 The 12th of February is also my 3rd wedding anniversary.  So our romantic Anniversary Dinner will consist of pancakes.  Andrew will eat the sausages for me (he’s good like that), and we will spend a couple of hours with our Parish Family and the wider community.

 I’d like to begin discussion a little earlier than the 12th of February, as I’ll be rather busy on the actual day. 

I have struggled with depression since puberty and it was, ironically, our First wedding anniversary in 2011 when I finally recognised that the black hole had returned.  It is said Winston Churchill referred to his depression as a black dog, but for me, the image is more of a hole, that may or may not have a cover.  I feel like I need to go there and stay there as it is quiet and nobody bothers me.  I get enveloped by the darkness and feel comfortable in my absolute inability to move.  My inability to do much of anything, but absolutely cannot sleep.

 The year 2012 was particularly difficult as my husband was unemployed for a good part of it.  My father died in June and the grief, at times, felt unbearable.  But I persevered, as that is what I do.  I put on a happy face and simply got on with it.  Until the fall.  There’s something about the fall that sets me back on my heels.  It’s one of my favourite times of the year and also a very frightening time of year.  As the earth begins to prepare herself for hibernation, I find myself longing for the longer nights.  I like the darkness.  It’s peaceful.

 Recently I saw a periodontist about TMJ (I don’t know what that stands for) and he suggested I increase the meds I take at night to help me sleep.  He’s also built up my night guard so I can train my jaw muscles to not clench as often as I sleep.  He said it will take me a couple of weeks to get used to it.  I’m on day 4 of it, and not sleeping well, but I understand why.

 Mental Health is something I live with every day.  Most days are completely manageable.  Some days even feel like there’s nothing wrong at all.  And then there’s the “bad patch” days when everything is massive.  Getting dressed is a chore.  Going to work is a struggle, and I LOVE my “job”.  The idea of talking to anyone feels like an insurmountable obstacle, and most days like this I can force myself, one step at a time, one minute at a time, one moment at a time, to do what I have to do.  And some days like these, I can’t.  So I don’t.

 I recognise that there are times when I am not fun to be around.  And I try to remove myself from everyone so I can try to figure out what on earth is going on.  Or at least, rest myself, perhaps journal, do yoga, and sleep.

 Mental Health is something that is greatly misunderstood.  It is much maligned as something that a strong person can “snap out of” if they choose to do so.  That is, with all due respect, absolute bullshit.  

 I can act, I can pretend, and I think I do a pretty good job of putting on a game face and getting the job done. Very few people have ever seen me in a deep depressive state, because I tend to not be around folks when I’m in the cave.  We, as society, need to stop closeting people who struggle and live with mental illness.  It’s not all in our head…well, actually, it kind of is.  It is not imaginary.  There are voices, smells and sights that may not exist to anyone else but us.

 Sometimes we talk to ourselves, sometimes we answer ourselves.  But aside from the quirks and anomalies that make us stand out, there is the private hell that we face.  You can’t save us.  You can’t say a magic phrase to make it all okay.  There is no magic pill to “cure” us.  The reality is, we have to find our way through combinations of drug therapy, talk therapy, good nutrition, exercise, and a support group of professionals, amateurs, family and friends.

 No two of us are the same, and that’s awesome.

 If someone you love seems to be struggling, don’t be afraid to ask us if we’re okay.  Chances are we’ll tell you we’re “fine”, but we may tell you the truth.  And it may be frightening to hear.

 If you are someone who struggles, find someone to share your struggle with.  Find someone to trust completely and share what you’re really feeling.  It won’t be easy.  You may get hurt.  But the reality is, no-one deserves to struggle alone.

 As a relatively high-functioning depressive in a small Southwestern Ontario village, I think it’s important that people see me for who I am.  A quirky, humorous, dignified Anglican priest (not priestess) who tells it like it is, is as down to earth as she can be, and who loves what she does.

 Ask me anything at all.  I reserve the right to refuse to answer.  And I reserve the right to tell you the truth.

 It’s time for us to talk about mental illness.  So let’s get the conversation started…

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