Being Consistent: Why is it so hard?!

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Why is it so damn hard to stay consistent with routines? Why, even when I have proven to myself that I benefit from having regular routines, why can I not keep them going?

The last time I posted was three weeks ago, a very long time given that I had gotten into a routine of regular posting. I worked hard to establish a routine; a rhythm, a committment, of research, journaling, photographing, drawing and posting of my impressions. Then, all of a sudden NOTHING! I might as well have disappeared off the face of the earth, dropped into an unending well, fell off one of those ten story cliffs in the Amazon and disappeared.  This is not a new pattern for me. In fact, people have commented on this throughout my life but I thought nothing of it. People I worked with would say “you’re so elusive”, “where have you been? ” or “where did you disappear to?” always accompanied by a very strange, suspicious look at me.

I’m not talking about ‘lost time’, although I certainly have experienced that too (one of these times I came home with Argo, as a puppy). No, what I’m referring to here is working on something and pursuing it with great effort and then suddenly, and out of the blue, dropping it and turning away from what I wanted. I could see this if it was not important to me, but it is incredibly frustrating because I will turn away from activities I want.

Maybe its part of the splitting; an alter taking over? Maybe, its the ups and downs of the fragmentation and mood? I don’t know.

This “dropping everything” has had the most negative impact in two areas of my life: interpersonal relations and jobs or career aspirations. In both cases, it leads to tremendous mistrust towards me and lack of friendships or positive movement in career. It is difficult to gain momentum in either case when you move forward great and then drop the ball, and repeat this pattern over and over again.

I have lost relationships this way as well as many projects, hobbies, and I have lost two businesses by simply dropping it and stepping away. I feel like I step back and throw my arms up, and turn away while everything is falling to the ground. It doesn’t matter if a situation is stressful or not, boring or not, complicated or not; I just stop and let it go. What do I do next? Typically, hang out somewhere else, more like HIDE and convince myself that “I can’t do it” or that “they aren’t interested in me anyway.” I really hate this and I want to do all I can to fix this.

I do know that I have been able to lessen this tendency by increasing routines and being even more structured through keeping notes to myself, lists and having what I need ready to go. I have also found it helpful to take breaks; give myself the ‘down time’, keep things simple and give myself encouragement to return whenever I can, even for a little bit of it.

Interestingly, over the past two weeks while I was “away”, I jotted down thoughts I wanted to share with you (over 15 of them), articles I wanted to write, areas of trauma I wanted to research and recipes I wanted to try, so there was lots to share with you. Yet, I did nothing beyond thinking about them, and laying low – out of sight, managing little.

This time, I am not giving up!

For now, please accept my apologies for my ‘absence’ and for my next set of posts as they will be out of order and may seem out of synch too. I will find out all I can about why this is, and what I, and we, can do about it, and get right back to you!

Reluctant Viewer of Dr. Oz

Dr Oz Episode: Dr. Oz's Super Spectacular Health Fair (June 6, 2014)
Dr Oz Episode: Dr. Oz’s Super Spectacular Health Fair (June 6, 2014)

For years I have taken a peak at the Dr. Oz show, only to turn away very fast! I’d walk away complaining about its format, the bits of information and that overly commercialized style of his and the presentation. I have refused to accept any value in this show. I am a big believer of TV as an effective communicator of information to help improve peoples’ lives so shouldn’t I be a fan, right?

The over-simplified, fraction of a morsel of information that is shared; more fragmented than even me, the women who act dumb, the condesending approach to problems, and the ludicrous presentations – all of it is unbelievably embarrasing.

Dr. Oz himself, seems like a very genuine, devoted, obviously super intelligent guy and the issues he tackles are important but the writing and the way solutions are presented are so abrupt and over-the-top simplistic that I can’t imagine anyone absorbing anything but the antics of it all.

The repeated emphasis on certain parts of the health care community while excluding others. The support of one product or one tip out of context.  The awful presentation of issues in isolation and without integration into other issues. The ridiculous games to show “multi-tasking” or “stressed heart” or “pick the grain game” and on and on.

Dr. Oz Episode: Supermarket Secrets
Dr. Oz Episode: Supermarket Secrets

But wait a minute!

Don’t complex health issues need to be simplified?

Don’t people need to be ‘shocked’ and ‘awed’ before they can make changes to their unhealthy lifestyles?

Isn’t this a good community service for promoting health?

Doesn’t he do a good job of promoting natural nutrients, supplements and self-care?

Yes, yes, yes and YES!!

Haven’t I, myself, benefitted from some of his tips?

Absolutely!

  • I first discovered the value of flax seed and I make his flax seed muffin receipe every day (great for constipation)
  • I learned about inflammation; in a way I could get despite reading many studies on it
  • His explanation of acid reflux gave me ideas on what to do
  • I am more watchful of labels, and a more intelligent shopper
  • I have added many more herbal remedys to my repretoire
  • His shows on ‘power-foods’ and nutrition have provided me with a few food ideas.

Okay, okay- I’ll admit it.  I do like some of the information and opinions he offers and I’m glad I have seen certain shows.

Still, when I do watch, I can’t help but feel that there is a strong conflict of interest; very strong!  Everything about the show feels more manipulative than a commercial and a lot less enjoyable. These are good reasons to be very cautious, despite the bits of good information that we can occassionaly gleam.

I will openly join you in watching the show, periodically, but lets continue to do our own research and be wary!

 

Dissociation in Film and Literature

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Most people know the more popular, but poor depictions of Dissociative Identity Disorder (aka Multiple Personality Disorder), but few know of the great representations.  You could argue…well its fiction or its just hollywood… but these mediums have a very important, significant impact on society’s perceptions of mental illness.

When films or novels represent mental illness with compassion and respect, the results are phenomenal. The piece is entertaining and successful, but also so valuable in terms of progression of society. The films and novels that are not based on negative, inaccurate stereotypes have the ability to shift our understanding, like no other medium!  This is especially true of film. Take for example, Sybil, The Hulk, Shutter Island, Lord of the Rings; awful portrayls of DID. These are fantastic stories, and I am a super big fan of Dennis Leanne, but I believe the media has misrepresented these great stories of transformation, mistakenly labelling the characters with dissociation or “split personalities”. Worse, films like Psycho, as well as Me, Myself and Irene, portray these characters as calculating murderers; understandable for the storyline, but way off base for DID. Worst of all is the portrayal of DID in soap operas- remember Vicki/Niki and her daughter, Jess/Tess on One Life To Live? I wish it was so obvious!

Who cares?

Ah, but we do need to care. Look what happens when film and novels portray mental illness really well:  A Beautiful Mind, Ordinary People, The Deer Hunter, Margot at the Wedding, The Virgin Suicides. – the world starts to understand and treat mental illness with a lot more respect!  Film and literature are crucial to changing society’s perceptions for the better! I know if I had seen a movie or read a book in my twenties I would have clued into the reason for my difficulties a lot sooner.

In terms of literature, I gained a lot more insight and satisfaction when I read A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving or The Piano Man’s Daughter by Timothy Findley. I know the purpose of literature is not to raise personal insights, but it is thoroughly satisfying to enjoy an entertaining story with well thought out character portrayls. The commentary that follows the film’s release, in the media and society, clearly demonstrates much increased insight in everyone else exposed to the stories.

Finally, I saw my favorite portrayal on the TV show: Murdock Mysteries; where Anastasia Phillips brilliantly represented a young woman with multiple personalities as a result of witnessing trauma as a child.

Good fiction examples include Fragments by Tessa Jones, and Evolution of Insanity written by Haresh Darwin, and Jessica Wilde’s Every One of Me. Here are some very clear, informative guidelines for those wanting to portray mental illness prepared by the Time To Change organization.

Then there is more non-fiction or the personal memoirs, two excellent portrayals specifically describing the experience of dissociation.  Below are two powerful excerpts from memoirs by two women with DID.

Sylvia Fraser –   My Father’s House  

“I recapture tha momen [of abuse] precisely when my helplessness is so bottomless that anything is preferable. Thus, I unscrew my head from my body as if it were the lid of a pickle jar. From then on I would have two selves– the child child who knows, with guilty body possessed by daddy, and the child who dares not know any longer, with innocent head attuned to mommy.”

You may also find interesting descriptions of her body memories, pain and sensations that she endures as an adult but which belong to the past abuse.

“…the adult me comforts the child, holds her hand, pitites her burden until I was prepared to remember our joint history without bitterness. I feel only relief, release, compassion, even elation.”

Pamela Mala Sinha   –  Hiding  

“…she showed herself to us. She called herself Hiding. The parts of that night I couldn’t remember, she did. She was left to live what I couldn’t and she hated me for it. The Blacks [dissociated states] were her way of making me know that if she had o bear I, then I’d have to pay…..Hiding is the only one who could tell you what happened…, but she won’t…. Sometimes during the Blacks, I would go out to bars to find men to rape me. I carried a large knife in my knapsack. Hiding wanted me to re-live it; she believed I should have defended myself…And to bear being touched I would split off–watching myself ‘act out’ from a corner of the room… That’s when I left. I left myself behind to be [abused], left my body there in that bed and walked over…”

 

Kiwi For Reducing Fugue: Another delicious Green Protein Drink!

IMG_0410Over the past few weeks I have been experimenting with different nutrients, trying (kind of desperately) to find ways to keep dissociation at bay and increase clarity in my mind. I am determined to find more ‘tools’, in addition to therapy, hypnosis, exercise, journaling and drawing! So far the meat meals, various vegetable dishes and the Green Protein Drink is showing promise.

I was thrilled to get feedback from other bloggers, and one in particular, Separate Parts commented:

“I love smoothies. Spinach, Kale and Kiwi is also good”

Ah, great suggestion, I thought. As you know I try to keep remedies for dissociation simple as possible to ensure I’m not loosing nutrients, but adding Kiwi fruit should be excellent for nourishing me.

So, I did make it, analyse it and drink it- yum, it was so good!! With this suggested addition of Kiwi, my protein drink is made delicious, the nutrients are increased and it ends up being much more satisfying for my mind- Yes it works! Within an hour, I felt the fugue reduce and my emotional energy rise considerably!!

THANKS to you Separate Parts!

Here is the calculation of nutrients (I like to use a variety of sources to calculate the nutritional charts, but I find SELFNutritionData to be excellent).

Nutrients for Kiwi Green Protein Drink compared to two typical examples of Smoothies
Nutrients for Kiwi Green Protein Drink compared to two typical examples of Smoothies

 

Pretty amazing, huh?   I’m impressed… those kiwi’s, when added to kale, spinach and pears, sure create a wonderful infusion to nourish our mind and body! Interestingly, I also discovered that when pears and apples are combined with the kiwi, their protein value increases too.

If that doesn’t convince you, check out the analysis of which of our essential needs are met with one 8-oz Kiwi Green Protein Drink:

Essential Needs: Kiwi Green Protein Drink

No wonder, I felt more clear  and less spilt off.  Okay, this is something I will be having every day, for sure.

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Here is the recipe:

  • 1 Kiwi
  • 1 Apple
  • 1 Pear
  • 1 cup of blueberries
  • 1 cup of spinach (or 2 large handfuls)
  • 5 Kale leaves, torn into pieces
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed

Cut apple, kiwi, pear, spinach and kale into pieces and mix together in the blender with the water and the blueberries. If you like a different thickness you can easily reduce or increase the water.

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I also put the remaining fruit chunks into baggies for the freezer so I can make it real quick next time, and anytime I like; no matter how confused I am.

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ENJOY!!


NOTE– I used the following smoothie recipes to compare to our Kiwi Green Protein Drink: Blueberry Muffin Smoohie recipe and the Breakfast Smoothie.

Change Helplessness Into Opportunity!

Elephant Rock, Heimaey, Iceland by Eric Carlson © 2014
Elephant Rock, Heimaey, Iceland by Eric Carlson © 2014

Why do elephants make no effort to get away when they are held only by a small rope?

I heard the answer to this on a radio interview recently and I was stunned. The belief that they cannot, even if they try,  is so ingrained in them that breaking free is not even an option!!

The man on the radio answered: “when they are very young and much smaller the rope is used to tie them. As they grow up, they believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free”

Why is this so shocking to me? I have studied learned helplessness and I remember hearing about the Elephant Chain Syndrome, but the imagery here and the realization that it causes a block in options we can take is very personal now. It isn’t some simple concept but a negative effect of restraint or restriction that has very significant implications.

For years, I have tried to understand why I tend to give up, let things fall apart, and not even realize I have a choice. People have often asked me why didn’t I do this, or that instead of ‘nothing’ and I can hear myself responding: “oh, I didn’t realize that was an option.” I can still see the puzzled look on their faces.

I am the elephant.  I was making an automatic, fixed assumption; as if set in concrete, that I can’t do anything about the situation I was in. My experience in childhood proved to me that there was no point- just lay there and be quiet, don’t try anything!

It’s so much more than just a belief; so much more than just a mind set or mode of interacting – this assumption of helplessness is at the core of abuse, and forms the basis for very faulty decision making. Yes, the subsequent helplessness is due to the real experience of severe restrictions (in my case the abuse, and also having my ankles and wrists tied as a 4-8 year old). Yes, we can change this but first, we need to recognize that our lack of action is as automatic as an involuntary instinct, that once protected us but today is a barrier!

No wonder I have shown poor decision making or what has been called “lack of judgement”.  I know I am a smart, perceptive and reasonable person but if I can’t see options; alternatives to resolving a situaion, than for me, the situation is all there is; it is absolute. There is no other option.

Or is there? I need to ask.

Elephant at the ruins of Ayutthaya © Chanel 2014. BOHEMIAN LIFESTYLE
Elephant at the ruins of Ayutthaya © Chanel 2014. BOHEMIAN LIFESTYLE – such a beautiful and very smart animal!

If we think of ‘learned helplessness’ or ‘lack of judgement’ from a cognitive perspective; focus on the processing required for decision making, then we have a good chance at success.

Take a recent example of mine: I was first sad, and then angry, by a comment someone madem which in the past, I wouldn’t have addressed.  This would only reinforce my helplessness and leave me stuck in the sad-angry stage and afraid of both.

I drew the plan below to help me sort out reality- options. Initially it took a while, but now I am questioning the existence of alternate options automatically, in every situation. If I am not sure what they are,  or can’t see them in my mind, I will take a minute to brainstorm in a structured format as below.

© MakingGoodForAll 2014
© MakingGoodForAll 2014

 

I hope this helps you too!

Rabbit Recipe: Protein with the most!

Loreta's Rabbit Recipe

Okay Okay! I will confess!…..  I ate rabbit meat.

A small serving (about a handful), has a phenomenal amount of protein and iron. My body and mind are healing and for that reason I crave, and need a lot of protein. I managed the first part of the week with chicken stock broth, extra spinach and kale fixings as well as some barbecued steak. The proportion of protein, vitamin B, B-6, zinc and good fats is extremely high in these foods; so high that they help reduce dissociation, confusion and improve concentration for me.   Focusing on these nutrients contributed to much clearer days and while I did experience some of the fugue state, I did not dissociate.

Four days in, however, I was suddenly sleepy, exhausted and my feelings of sadness intensified, even though the fugue stayed very low. I was clueless to explain, and in my typical fashion; oblivious to what my body and mind were telling me.

Several days later, I figured it out. I got i!

After a week of fighting fugue and working hard to ward off dissociation, I must have ended up drained; burn out! Now I need to focus on refueling; getting iron, selenium, more protein, omega-3 fatty acid, and magnesium back into my body.

Thats it; I need to fill back up!

In my research I found the answer, but it was not pretty. After years of critizing my dad for eating rabbit and other game meat, I would have to complement him; tell him he was right.

Like many people, I have scorned those who eat rabbit meat- I mean seriously?! Rabbits are so cute and my sister has two rabbits as pets. Yep, I couldn’t deny it as my own research identified rabbit meat as a solution for my post-dissociation recovery.

Have a look at the nutrients table below as I think you will agree.

Making Good For All © 2014

Making Good For All © 2014

Here is the analysis of the proportion of what this recipe provides:

Making Good For All © 2014
Making Good For All © 2014

 Loreta’s Rabbit Meal

  • 2-3 pieces of Rabbit meat (equivalent to 1 large chicken breast)
  • Soak in water and some salt over night and drain the next day
  • In a frying pan, with olive oil and garlic, brown the meat
  • Add 1 cup of water, sprinkle in some flour and add some wine
  • Add all that you like of rosemary, bay leaf, and other herbs
  • Throw in a couple of carrots and potatoes for completeness
  • Simmer until the meat is done to your preference and the liquid has thickened and absorbed.

Yes, I had to eat my words 🙂

May it give you lots of strength too!

Turn Mental Illness Into Mental Wellness

CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) Redevelopment Project where they are building a new kind of hospital which includes advancing treatment, revitalizing the community and changing attitudes toward those with mental illness and addictions.
CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) Redevelopment Project where they are building a new kind of hospital which includes advancing treatment, revitalizing the community and changing attitudes toward those with mental illness and addictions.

Can we pull together a culture that understands mental illness on a continuum that everyone shares?

Can we find a set of cultural codes, ethics, directions, and supports that will let us accept mental illness and want to support it too?

There are many signs that point to “yes”.  More conversation- more hopeful, more integrated tapping into different options for care, more inclusion, more acceptance and awareness in the ‘mainstream’– is happening in a powerful way online and offline.  It reaches fom the variety of excellent workshops for survivors and professional therapists. To the promising scientific investigations published in traditional science journals; from television personalities and olympic athletes talking about their own mental illness to more accurate, honest portrayls in film and literature. For the first time in a long time, mental illness and mental wellness are being linked and they matter.

Something amazingly positive is happening within groups dedicated to mental health in their community. It includes, hospitals like CAMH (pictured above) who have invested in a multiple use community structure rather than one building with hospital rooms.

Just as important, are local and international organizations like RETHINK and NAMI who advocate, educate, advocate somemore and highlight the community with such dignity and positivity that people want to be involved.

It involves the researchers, along with a new generation of doctors dedicated to being curious enough to explore what seems impossible, such as those looking into the role of zinc and predictive factors for recovery.

Cinicians, nurses and instructors thinking outside the box and accepting non-medical interventions as well as their typical medical tools.

And it owes a huge debt to parents who are speaking up in the face of family trauma and suicide in their children, especially parents of soldiers with PTSD who were unrecognized alive while they suffered with alcoholism and other symptoms of trauma.

At its heart, a genuinely accepting mental health culture is an affinity between people and all that impacts on them in their daily life.

First, probably, is to be extremely aware of all the interactions with our minds and bodies. No making assumptions or writing someone off.

Second, is to be able to tolerate what is known but also what is not known about mental illness, and third is to start expecting more of those in the field of mental health and the people suffering from mental illness to ensure everyone is included- that we do all we can.

In the spirit of all the wonderful advances being made across all aspects of mental illness, lets celebrate and really make a difference for everyone suffering; in all situations from a little stress to those with very serious concerns!

Read More.

 

Meatballs: Support for Energy and Routine

Meatballs MakingGoodForAll ©2014We need protein to heal but having it available in its most natural form is a challenge! First, few foods have enough protein to make a difference, and second, it needs to be part of a routine: easy and simple!  This way, whether I have the cognitive clarity or not, I can still eat healthy. I have found a solution for wellness (protein) and consistency (routine) that I hope works for you too.

The beauty of this recipe for meatballs is that they are very simple to make, can be frozen and used anytime on short notice. Most important is that one serving of meatballs provides us with 42% of the protein we need.

Below is Loreta’s recipe; its much simpler than most but I think this is best as it allows us to absorb the main nutrients we need without our digestion having to work so hard (as our bodies are already working very had all the time, coping with stress and repair).

Loreta makes a batch of 20 once a week and freezes them. Light and delicious; available anytime without a second thought, meetng our goal for high routine and dependability- that is this meal doesn’t require any planning and it can be cooked with a confused head 🙂

Simply drop them into  a pot of sauce or you can even boil them. Within 10 minutes you will have a high protein, nourishing meal that cost less than two dollars! Lets get started!

Loreta’s Meatball Recipe

Meatballs dropped in boiling water with the pasta, then simply add butter and salt to your preference.
Meatballs dropped in boiling water with the pasta, then simply add butter and salt to your preference.
  • 1 package of ground pork (usually in a .5 kilo or 1lb weight)
  • 1 package of ground beef (usually in a .5 kilo or 1lb weight)
  • Mix the two types of meat together and make a mound (works best on parchment paper)

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  • 2 eggs (cracked, put in the center, and mixed with the meat)

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  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (we like to use the brand with parsely and romano cheese)

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  • Mix together until it is all smooth

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We must be doing good- Pickles, my son's cat has joined us!
We must be doing good- Pickles, my son’s cat has joined us!
  • Take a small handful and roll into a meatball.

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  • Feel free to add onions, garlic, parsely and any herbs you like. We like to keep it simple to ensure the strength of the nutrients we need, such as the protein and vitamins.

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  • Pack them and put them in the freezer. When you are ready drop them into sauce or water and enjoy.

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Thats it!

I’ve been working on a way to test and represent what is most helpful to nourishng mental health. Below are the two charts and you’re first to view them as I’m hoping for your feedback 🙂

First, is a typical nutritional table, but only nutrients known to support mental health are identified.

Making Good For All © 2014
Making Good For All © 2014

Second, is a chart that is a tool I have developed to help gauge which of our needs is best met by which food, nutrients and the particular recipe. The “Essential Needs” identified are the first batch of needs found to be important to mental health and recovery.

Making Good For All © 2014
Making Good For All © 2014

I have designed an algorithm to evaluate food for nutrients that are required for us and particular to what is needed to help PTSD and DID (any stress for that matter). It shows the proportion of the ‘essential need’ we can get from this recipe.

As I am testing the presentation of this data and the algorithm, I’d love to have your feedback.

You may have other “essential needs” that you struggle with or other nutrients you have identified as important- please let me know and I will implement them too!

 

Top PTSD Research: Impact of local news events

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 6.03.46 PMApplause for Dr. Jonathan Comer and Annie Dantowitz!

Dr. Comer and his team at Florida International University along with Annie Dantowitz and her team at Boston University interviewed hundreds of families living in the Boston area, in the 6-months following the Boston Marathon attack. Their research entitled: Adjustment Among Youth After the Boston Marathon Bombing and Subsequent Manhunt,  demonstrates that children and youth in the Boston area were SIX times more likely to experience symptoms of PTSD. This is a simple but excellent study that makes four really important points:

  • Children/youth ARE impacted but what is reported in the media, not only with symptoms but 11% diagnosed with PTSD as well
  • Symptoms are seen in emotions, behavior, hyperactivity and peer problems, adjusment problems
  • An average of 1.5 hrs of television coverage was viewed in those suffering and 20% of the children/youth watched more than three hours of televised coverage on the day of the attack!!
  • Children/youth with more positive peer suppot and pro-social parent support were found to be protected from the impact of exposure

My own experience is that these experiences to news events happen on a regular basis: children/youth, likely even adults responding to traumatic news events with trauma-based symptoms. Exposure to media exasperates it but support of processing helps a lot!

I remember the year following the 9/11 attacks and many other news events, full of children/youth expressing nightmares, behavior outbursts, hyperactivity, separation anxiety and phobias simply in response to the visual images they had seen on TV. In fact, I remember treating children with similar symptoms when the movie Monsters Inc came out too. It really doesn’t take much, but it does take the presentation of certain imagery that is excessive and overwhelming beyond the person’s processing capacity, when there is not sufficient context, comprehension or language to be able to process it so it can be filed away as a normal memory.  Under these conditions an event they are exposed to can become shocking to their mind and body, especially when there is no support to help them process and understand the events.

This is a fantastic study as it keeps PTSD in the limelight in a way that increases peoples’ awareness of the risk and protective factors!

Acceptance of Mental Illness: Community

Route 25 Don Mills bus

As I ride the Route 25 bus south along Don Mills road, through fifty year old neighborhoods overflowing with new faces, I feel faint, more precisely nauseous, as if there is too much information flying around, too many colors and sounds.  Every breathe seems to bring on more disorientation and now my legs feel heavy. Everything I see feels busy, the way bees forage for nectar. It  is a hot day with heavy rain and wind outside. I am a woman sitting on a bus, looking normal, wearing jeans and a red fleece jacket and a scarf as it feels cold outside; facing forward, looking like I’m going somewhere.

There is a close succession of bus stops, the wheels squeak, some people get on, others off. The few passangers on this bus rise and fall in unison over each pot hole.

Is anyone here mentally ill?  Is anyone in a stressed or panicked state?

Here is a young man with an iPod who stares out the window, calm and content. Here is a black woman with a gorgeous braided bun on top of her head. She wears pink running shoes, snuggled into a cream leather jacket. Here is a woman in her 20s, wearing a black winter coat and a Hijab that compliments her delicate eye makeup. Moisture grows and drips across the window panes.

The bus darts forward, then slams and squeaks; releasing it’s back wheels. “Are we there yet?” echoes in my head. A man walks by checking his lottery ticket.

“Next stop Thorncliffe West.”

Orderly and politely, a group of children board, whispering, then calling out to each other. A man in a wheelchair pushes himself off the bus. Everyone else follows as we have reached the subway station and the end of the line.

Pape Station with Don Mills bus

And so I’m here; half way to my destination. I have not stayed overwhelmed. I have quietly related to people around me, stayed present with the movements of the bus, reflected on the rhythm of each person going about their day.

Everyone is a survivor. These people are not preoccupied with their concerns as I’m sure they all have a story. It’s ridiculous, I know, and yet I find consolation in this group of strangers. I am alert and inspired!