The road less traveled.

So, it turns out, I’m still struggling with getting my thoughts and actions balanced again after falling apart a few weeks ago.  “Falling apart” actually describes what happens to me quite accurately.  As I said before, it is as though my self, mind, and emotions become fragile glass that gets shattered by too much pressure.  That pressure is usually fueled by fear, hopelessness, and isolation.  Now, I can recognize it, be kind to myself and allow myself the time to recover, weeks, maybe a month or so, versus the years I spent in these shattered states. So forgive my tardy posting.  I have always chosen the road less traveled, I really don’t like crowds! To others, it may seem a more difficult path, but it is the only way I have become the Prevailer I am today. I prevail because no matter what, I’m still standing!

During my breakdown in 1979/80, I went to an Alanon family retreat in North Bay where Sister Peg O’ Connor helped people learn how to live with an alcoholics in their lives. She was tough and didn’t pull any punches when she challenged us to take a good honest look at ourselves and our lives; she let us know it was OK to go ahead and have a life in spite of the alcoholic.  Since alcohol and drugs had played a big factor in my mental illness I couldn’t deny it when Sister Peg told me I was an alcoholic/addict, needed more help, and recommended Vita-Way Farm in Powassan (Outside North Bay) where you would live for 9 months to rehabilitate.

Yes, it is THAT place founded by Father John Fisher, who I knew to be the angriest, most foul-mouthed, chain-smoking priest I ever met. I didn’t know about the sexual abuse he perpetrated on some of the young men until after the allegations came out in 2008 and I am not surprised. I am so sorry for all of his victims but will tell my story as it happened for me.

Actually, I was relieved that someone knew what was wrong with me and how to fix it because I was completely lost. I went home and struggled for a few months waiting to get in. Once there, I started to get one eye-opening experience after another.

We started our days with actual farm chores and that huge shock to the olfactory really made me question my life choices. There were group meetings where we learned and practiced 7 steps that had been adapted from the 12 steps to be more teen-friendly.  They dealt with taking an honest look at yourself, admitting your shortcomings, become willing to change, making changes and keeping all this going on a daily basis.  The girls did all the cooking and cleaning and the guys did the bigger farm jobs after we all fed them in the mornings.  I didn’t feel like a troubled teen and never really felt like I fit in there, but then again I hardly ever do feel like I fit in.

After a couple of months, I started to feel like I HAD to go home and impulsively decided I was leaving. When I told Father Fisher he lite a smoke with the butt of his old one and spit out, “Going to go and suck off your mother’s tit some more, eh?” I was appalled and defiantly packed my bag and started the long, long walk into North Bay, 30 km away, in -20 weather.  One of the farm workers came by and gave me a ride to the bus station after about 30 minutes of walking that long highway.  My Mother was instantly concerned that I would retreat into old habits and when I got home off the bus she had her Alanon friend Pauline and her husband Norm visiting for coffee. Norm just happened to be in AA and invited me to a meeting that night. I went to appease my Mother but I started going to a meeting a day and soon you couldn’t keep me in the house so I sure felt like something was working.

Next time I will let you know how I’m doing and tell a bit more about my journey on the road less traveled.

 

Thanks for reading, caring and supporting me.

Well, that happened.

So, I missed last week’s post because I had a PTSD attack that left me feeling shattered mentally and emotionally; my thinking was disordered and I just couldn’t get my act together. At one time, I spent months and years in that state. During most of my childhood, adolescence, and off and on into my early 30s. How I have succeeded at anything is kind-of amazing because I have fought mental fog most of the time. Here is what happened, what I learned and how I am coping today.

I have had to have a human roommate to cover my expenses the last few years that I have lived on a disability pension and the situation has become a huge problem! I handled everything OK for the first couple of days, but as my home became more stressful, I began to feel less and less safe, no violence, but the stress made the air thicker and my home became disordered while the situation is being dealt with.

Sometime last Monday, October 2, I ‘broke’; like a fragile piece of blown glass. I felt hopeless, weak and I couldn’t stop crying. I knew that the situation wasn’t that intense, but my PTSD was triggered and I was feeling the intensity of my past victimhood because of it.  Unlike the past though, I wasn’t embarrassed by my state,  I recognized it for PTSD and talked about it with a few people in my awesome support network. The other person I talked it through with was myself, I repeatedly reminded myself that I was ACTUALLY in this moment and have the skills to handle anything.  I practiced a lot of breathing exercises, mindful meditations, and positive self-talk to get myself out of it.

Within 5 – 6 days I was through the emotional and mental anguish of a PTSD attack, but then had crippling pain in all my arthritic joints: my fingers, hands, wrists, knees, ankles, and feet. I also had the digestive issues that accompany mental anguish for me and it took another week to recover from that, but look at me! Back at it in hardly no time at all!

I have already learned more about myself and my needs. My home has to be my haven, my port from the storm of life, the place I feel safe on every level.  I am not the fragile piece of blown glass I once was, I’m more like a Corel dish today, I can take being dropped a few times and I will bounce back LOL.

I have acquired, practiced and now own coping skills! I CAN reason with myself, I CAN reach out to someone, I CAN voice my pain and expectations and I am heard. I CAN be fragile and I WILL survive it. Fragility just means I am human.

Next week I will get back to my past story and another piece to the Lyn puzzle that is ME!

Thank you to all those friends and family that support me!

 

The seeds of Love.

In spite of all that had happened so far in my life, tiny seeds of love had indeed been planted within my mind/soul/self. My mother had a huge capacity for unconditional love so much so that “Love” was my nickname for her.

My Mother’s life was not an easy one but she had a sharp mind, fast wit, biting sarcasm, and so much love for her children! As a child, the only time I felt safe in my house was when I was home alone with my mother. Once I started school, I would often get really sick in the mornings and miss the school bus so I got to hang out with my mother. After a few days like this, she put on her “Dr’s” hat and diagnosed me with “Schoolitis” and much to my chagrin, the treatment was going to school.  :/  My Mother gave me two of the most precious gifts I carry today, a great sense of humour and a deep capacity to love. I seek to better myself and reach my potential in life to honour her memory. IMG_20130830_194752

When I became paralyzed from depression and anxiety it was my mother who kept me from becoming completely catatonic. She had already had a major health crisis that took a year for her to recover from during which I was stealing her pills and disappearing for a day or two every once in a while. I can only imagine the pain I caused her and I remain grateful for the opportunity to repay her love and kindness by caring for her when she became sick with Lymphoma. But back to love and how it helped me, even when I didn’t feel it.

Alateen had been a bright flash of light, love, and self-esteem within me too even though I crashed after only a year of believing in myself.  I spent a few years on self-destruct and I took on “drugs, sex, and rock and roll” with a mission to obliterate myself.  Went I stopped functioning at 17 years old I had destroyed any sense of good and I felt unlovable, unlikable and completely unable to do or be anything.  But, my mother loved me and told me every day, she insisted I was beautiful, kind and worth the pride she felt in me but I often told her, “She had to love me, she was my mother.” I have since learned that is not always the truth with mothers and daughters, and the love she showered on me sowed the seeds of love deep within my psyche, my soul, my self even though I didn’t believe it. My year in Alateen had been able to give them enough light for them to start slowly, steadily take root.

It would take me decades to reap the harvest of those seeds but if they had not been planted then I don’t think I would be here today. Love has been the most powerful force in my journey from victim to Prevailer. As I reflected on my past, I realized that it kept me going when I had nothing left within my mind, spirit or body. I continue to learn how to love myself and doing so has helped me create a happy, fulfilling, successful life today.

I wanted to interject my blog and story with the key to how I survived all that I have endured. Next week I will look back at my first bout with PTSD and make my way to Vita-Way Farm in 1979/80.

Thanks for reading and please keep connected.

Lyn xo

Hello, ​trouble.

I had the best year of my life when I was in grade nine, Alateen had given me some self-esteem and popularity. However, I still lived in a tension-filled, abusive home and my good sense-of-self didn’t last long. I had also been having digestive issues for years and was diagnosed with gallstones and was scheduled for major surgery that September.  Prior to that though, my devolution from Alateen to alcoholic was pretty memorable.

As I had mentioned, I was a popular Alateen speaker and was invited to a big Alanon conference in Sault St. Marie so a bunch of Alanoners and I took the long trip from Northern Ontario. While the adults were out at a bar (Yes, a bar) I got bored and went for a walk along the highway and this ‘nice’ guy stopped and offered me a ride…

Well…I vaguely remember drinking in Sault St. Marie, Michigan before going back to his place. By the time I made it back to our hotel – it was in a state of emergency because they had been looking for me for hours! Once home, I met an older woman I started hanging out and drinking with regularly. We even went to a local country bar so often, I was dating the lead singer of their house band, I was 14. The night before being admitted for my surgery, I got drunk on screwdrivers.

This was 1977 and I was in the hospital for 8 days! I was also left with a huge scar across my abdomen that negatively affected my self-image more. The recovery required me to miss about 2 months of grade 10 and I was completely overwhelmed when I tried to catch up so I just gave in and started stealing pills from my mother who was still very ill after having a near death experience of her own where a huge tumour was removed from her pancreas.  I skipped school more than I attended and was either drunk or stoned or both most days. I was regularly ordered to school detention or, “sin bin” as we called it, but I skipped those too! Eventually, they asked me to leave school, just weeks before my 16th birthday!

My great year was long gone and I made a deeper descent into despair, depression, and addiction. I went from the school honour roll in grade nine to trying and failing to finish grade ten 3 times. I was out of it most days on booze, pills and whatever drugs were going around. I would disappear for a few days every couple of weeks too. My poor Mother! In one foul swoop, I went from Alateen to Alcoholic and would spend the next few years submerged in a bottle.

In those years more trauma piled on; my father had physically assaulted me and I spent a month in a soft neck brace but had to lie to everyone about what happened. My sexual predator had friends who took advantage of me too and I had an abortion at 16 years old that I hid and lied about too.  I had no self-esteem and knew I was a waste of space, but I wanted to matter, somewhere, to someone. Then I met my first boyfriend, he was one of 18 Nigerian exchange students that had come to study at our college, we were young and became inseparable until my anxieties and PTSD lead to hard drinking, drugs, and promiscuity. I walked away from the first man who loved me because I believed I didn’t deserve him and I was driven by self-destruction.

Now I understand that PTSD will cause self-destructive behaviour, depression, anxieties, and addiction, but back then, to me and everyone around me, I was just damaged. There was so much ‘wrong’ with me I couldn’t imagine ever mattering in this world and I became more and more paralyzed emotionally, mentally and physically.  I fell into my first major depression and my childhood anxieties evolved into full-blown agoraphobia and I was completely unable to leave the house and at times my room.

My Mother’s health had improved while she continued in Alanon where she had found some serenity, healing and loving friendships. She even attended an Alanon retreat that profoundly affected her and she convinced me to go because she believed it would help me and I had nothing left to lose.  I met one of the most influential women in my life there, Sister Peg. She was very down-to-earth, a self-composed, and self-confident woman who saw the path I was on and helped me to see it too.

My next post will be about the power of love and planting the first seed of hope.

Thanks for reading this and sharing in my journey. Please remember that I am no longer in those depths of despair or depression and that IS the whole point of this blog. I regret that there are many incidents of trauma, tragedy, and grief that I have to share with you but I am going to interject with some positive ones, just like the small seeds of hope that have kept me going.

 

Love, Lyn xo

 

 

A ray of hope.

Last time, I wrote about my childhood and touched on the experiences and emotions that lead to my constant state of fear, anxiety, and despair.  There are a lot of details I left out on purpose because they are disturbing and not really germane to the goal of this blog. This has not always been the case, I had to delve deep into my abusive experiences and spent years recounting them in therapy to ultimately find myself. Today, I choose not to relive those experiences but can still continue to learn and grow from them.

My suicide attempt, in grade 8 at age 12, led to a ‘nervous breakdown’. That’s what they used to call any mental health crisis that they didn’t understand and because they hadn’t realized that PTSD was something non-soldiers could suffer from. As a result of this, I saw my school counselor with my Mother, who, broke down and admitted my Father’s drinking habits to her. It was the first time I had seen her cry and it broke my heart to think I had ‘done this’ to her.

We were both introduced to the family and friends support for Alcoholics Anonymous – Alanon for adults and Alateen for the kids.   It was the best thing that had ever happened to me so far in my life. Having been raised Catholic, the religious aspects of the AA program wasn’t a problem for me and going through the 12 steps helped me to discover something valuable in me for the first time, ever. I came to realize that I didn’t have to own the things that the alcoholic did to me, or how they made me feel. It wasn’t my fault that these things were happening and I flourished in Alateen. I hadn’t really completed grade 8 but they pushed me into high school anyway but because I had discovered a little bit of my self-esteem, confidence, and ability,  I ruled grade 9! Even though my Mother had fallen deathly ill,  my grades soared far beyond the 56/60 I was used to and I made the school’s honour roll that year!  In Alateen, with a platform in my life to let my gifts shine I soon became a sought-after speaker and traveled with the Alanon bunch to meetings and conferences in all sorts of communities. That was grade 9.

My next post will deal with my most dangerous step, moving from Alateen to alcoholic…pretty much in one drink. Until then, if someone you know is struggling with alcoholism, either first hand or in its wake, please reach out to Alanon or Alateen in your community.  https://al-anon.org/al-anon-meetings/

What it was like.

Today I am going back to my bad old days. Before I retell my painful past I want to remind you (and myself) that I no longer am there, that today my life is full of hope and love.

I was born in 1962, an era where people did not speak up about other people lives and what went on in the house, stayed in the house.  So much domestic abuse was publicly ignored and the victims had no one to tell. My father, who suffered from PTSD because of his time in battle during WWII lived with a lot of rage and the tension in our home was palatable. As soon as he drove in the yard after work, the air in the house would thicken and felt like it had to be chewed to fill my lungs. He also drank heavily and would become violent and unpredictable when drinking. This is where my fear was born.

I was always afraid as a child, afraid in my home, at school and in life generally.  I was completely unsure of myself, so much so I thought I had been some kind of birthing accident and wasn’t suppose to be here. At age four, two experiences happened that would set me on a self-destructive path for too many years to come. The first seemed innocuous; while being lifted into the bed of a pickup truck by my friend’s Mother, she exclaimed how heavy I was…I instantly became fat in my head and would battle weight and self-image problems for the next 40 or more years. Once the weight was on my body, kids were cruel about being overweight and I got picked on often then I would go home to more insults and ribbing about my weight and appearance and I became convinced of my hideousness and knew I was doomed to a loveless life.

The second experience would define me and cripple me for decades to come.  It was at age 4 that I first encountered sexual abuse, this would awaken my sexuality long before it should have and would distort my self-image to this day.  The sexual abuse continued until I was 15/16 years old, though the physical aspects ended then, the emotional and mental abuse that accompanies physical and/or sexual abuse continued every time I would encounter my abuser, my eldest brother.  It is the effects of emotional, mental and spiritual damage that linger after the abuse ends, victims are drained of any positive sense of themselves and, as I did, often struggle through life.  I was a shell of a body and merely existing in life when I encountered my first male teacher in grade 8 who was gruff, no nonsense kind of guy and he terrified me.  I made my first suicide attempt later that year.

42 years later, I am thrilled to be alive! I am hopeful about my future and I embrace love in my life. How I got from being a constantly hurting victim to the prevailer I am today IS what really matters, not how I got broken, but how I got fixed.  I will be spending much more time on the good in this blog, but must address the painful things to do so. My next installment will talk about Alateen, alcoholism, and hope.

Please talk to someone if this post has stirred any negative thoughts or feelings, I know it did in me and I will be connecting with people I know love me today.

Love, Lyn xo

 

I am a prevailer.

Hello and welcome to my weekly blog where I will be sharing my experience as a prevailer over abuse, addiction, grief, and mental illness. What is a prevailer? A prevailer is someone who has not only survived life’s obstacles, abuse, trauma, or tragedies, they have gone beyond the effects of those experiences to a place of inner peace and happiness in spite of them. My intention here is to hope to inspire you to prevail over your obstacles.

I have enjoyed a 20-year career as a professional clown, Betty Bubbles, and have fulfilled a few of my life’s dreams as a singer, performer, and actor in that time too! Over the years, I was engaged been married twice but have no children. Today, I share my home with Carlos, a rescued green cheeked conure parrot, and Laci, a Senegal parrot; who are both calling to me fervently while I ignore them to write this! “Squawk!” “Squawk!” “Squeak, squeak!” “Pretty Bird Hello? Hello?” “Squawk!” “Squawk!” “Pretty Bird Hello? Hello?”

The first emotion I remember from my childhood was fear, and fear would rule me for many years. I made my first suicide attempt at age 12 and struggled through life until my 30s. I had long held the belief that I wasn’t meant to be happy and was a worthless waste of space. I was torn apart by grief with the loss of my fiance, Russell and then again when my mother, Liliane, succumbed to cancer a few months before my first husband, Harvey Cooper took his own life. The ensuing depression, despair, and loneliness lead to my last suicide attempt and a complete mental break down. Ironically, losing my mind was a good thing for me because I became willing to think differently about myself, life and my possibilities. Many types of therapy, returning to school and Toastmasters International have influenced my growth but I think a major factor has been learning to love myself. 20 years later, I am happier than I ever thought possible and I love and believe in myself! I will be spending a little time on the trials of my life, but will be devoting a lot of this blog on the experiences that have helped me to become a prevailer!