Posts Tagged ‘Mental Health’


13 days to one year, 14 days to the first day of c-tine at home for our whole family (the college I teach at shifted to online delivery March 17, 2020). It’s okay to admit you have hit a threshhold for learning new things.It is okay to breathe.It is okay to take time alone (which is different than being lonely if lonely reach out for phone calls/online calls to folks), for being alone can aid in renewal.It is okay to cultivate new ideas or to simply keep on keeping on with what renews you.It is okay if you haven’t saved any money like the media is saying what a time of savings, cause y’know what being home is costly.It is okay to have ended relationships during this time, because the break made you realize they were toxic, or simply the only thing that kep the relationship going was proximity (nothing positive or negative).It is okay to be tired for no reason.It is okay to admit to not being okay.It is also okay to realize compassion for many in our society who are suffering, who have been excluded, who have been without voice. It is okay to speak about mental health, mental illness, chronic disease death, suicides, and overdoses (for those new to the advocacy call for help, I hope you continue once you no longer have to wear a mask for covid).It is okay to be frustrated/confused/angry due to the restrictions (sorry Alberta still not a lockdown), but end of day, what are you doing to cultivate health and optimism for you and your personal circles of support?It is okay to be okay with the restrictions and masks, and taking extra steps of care for self and neighbour.May as, this time moves forward, and eventually winds down, may we be continue to be okay with discussing tough topics with one another, okay with seeing one another as a full person, and yeah, be okay with doing things for the good of community and neighbour, even if doing that good and support has no direct tie to my own story.Let’s be okay with our journey, our healing, and seeing the good that can be cultivated and emerged from this time.

53

Posted: May 8, 2020 by Ty in Spirituality
Tags: , , ,

A weekend of challenge

from my life in ministry

how to support youth, children and families

in congregational

healthy spiritual community life

celebrate Mother’s, as they should be,

I know,

a wonderful blessing in my life from the matriarchs of my family

that were mentors, friends, and mentors

blessed and privileged to know a family of love,

sadly,

not everyone is

what do do?

How to support, minister, and show love for those without the privilige

who are hiding in the darkness, in survival

has C-tine increased this risk?

Brought the horros of domestic violence, that our province makes apologies and excuses for

driven the victims back into the basements,

hiding their voice in the shadows,

if you are one

if you hear one

if you know someone

speak out

call out for help.

(PSA Video: Alyssia Lies)

Stand in the love you have been blessed to know and experience,

share that love

create a healing sacred space

as we carry through physical distancing

may we emerge stronger into a healthier social normal

may this be the story of Mothers Day Weekend,

that all can come to know the courageous safety, space and love

Day 53 dusk begins to settle.


See the source imageJoe Exotic is a private zoo-internet-reality television personality and Tiger King is the story of what his world looks like. I bring this up as, with physical distancing having something that can provoke discussion with family, or friends online is never a bad thing. Also it shines a light on the private zoo and exotic animal rescue industry in the USA, as my wife would comment to our daughter, “we can buy a tiger for way cheaper than a Corgi for you.”, that and the fact that there is 4,000 tigers in the wild, and they estimate between 5,000 to 10,000 in captivity in the USA just sets the stage.

In the course of the documentary and following the winding road, you meet a drug cartel lord and his rationale for what he does based on his love of animals. An animal rescue couple, with hinky things in their past, and watch closely and ask yourself if what she is doing is any different than the private zoos? It is an intriguing conversation episode by episode as the story unfolds.

Within the private zoo movement those shared you meet hustlers, odd balls, ex-cons that can find a new life finally. But there is a darker stream, and yes this is darker than the big cat mill breeding for cubs as the major money maker is the photo ops with a cub and petting a cub that see the cats only making major money in their first 12 weeks of life. There is darker stories that happen as well, when you see the outcomes of the capitalism. The other thing, is seeing how the animals are used as leverage in building communes and cult like levels of obedience.

This is done, through constant work, sleep deprivation, shared purpose. In one private zoo it is polygamy, where the owner has multiple wives and if the thread is followed properly that he groomed through the previous means, through an intern project.

In the life of the Tiger King, what is seen is the grooming of multiple husbands in his fiefdom, flouting of laws, amassing of debt and the anxiety it creates, growing psychosis and what happens when there is not a healthy social support net around someone in the journey…

Each episode creates points of conversation, and moments of what the? But as one watches you can see real time mental illness and cult leader like behaviours within the community, and the question that needs to be asked though is what is the remedy for this, a healthy resolution for the animals, the staff, and those caught in the rising tide?


Image result for doom patrolI always chuckle loudly (it escapes my inner monologue) when I see fanboy-girls of comics clamour that they were never meant to be societal commentary, meta-narratives or vehicles of social justice…oh how we have missed the point of the medium that carries the message. But this post is not about our own narrow minded echo chambers and an inability to think beyond the literal (I do detest how religious and political ideological extremism has dumb downed our society in less than a generation).  Then you get a show based on a comic book that turns it all on its ear. It is a dark humourous ride into the soul of society using the vehicle of super heroes. The Doom Patrol which started as a band of quirky heroes in Great Adventures #80 (1963), their original run would end with an destructive nuclear blast on an island and Chief, Rita Farr, Larry Trainer, and Cliff Steele would be thought dead…Gar Logan The Beast Boy would go on to join the New Teen Titans as Changeling (and we shall not speak of the Titans television show and what they did with amazing source material–for shame). For more on the twisty-turn world of Doom Patrol, read here, with a grain of salt much like you enter their comic book world curated in the show by Mr. Nobody.

Then the wonderfully weird Grant Morrison would take over the title, and it would shift into Mature Readers territory, and become part of the new sub-universe Vertigo and these heroes would truly shine. This is the fun dark style adventures that the DC Universe streaming Show, Doom Patrol, has taken to the screens. Now think Morrison, and then Pollack was writing late 1980’s through mid-late 1990’s and a character like the gender-queer Danny the Street was created (yes a sentient street where all are welcome), but remember according to fan culture, comics are just stories with no other commentary (Gerard Way with the Young Animals Imprint would keep up this great style of Doom Patrol story telling). But let’s look at the other characters that now grace the television screen. Each episode of season one unveils the traumas that the team must face in their search for Niles Caulder, the Chief. Not only unpacking who the man was that gave them sanctuary and safety from the world, but also what it means to not only be a hero, but a full person.

Larry Trainer (in the comics, Negative Man). A courageous test pilot who has cosmic radiation invest a spirit within him. A man with a wife and kids, a hero, but in 1935 as a child coming home from school his parents are in crisis because a teacher is saying their child is queer. We can so easily forget how far we have come as a society and Trainer’s story shows the fear and inner turmoil he faced when the love of his life stated that he had resigned from the Air Force and wanted Trainer to come with him before the accident. It took Trainer 60 years to come to even a sort of resolution and closure over the incident, as he battles the entity within him always asking whey the entity wants to torture him, but in a seen in Parraguay and the entity echoing Trainer’s words back, is it possible Trainer is the one torturing himself and the entity is attempting wholeness and closure if only Trainer would accept?

Rita Farr (in the comics, Elasti-Girl) is a Golden Age of Hollywood Starlet. Groomed by her parents not with an education, but with only music, dance and acting lessons as it is her looks that will carry her forward. Then her powers emerge and she becomes a blob. The inner struggle is the showing of nurture having stripped her identity of anything other than looks, and the use of the “casting couch” to get ahead. When Rita looses these abilities, her new abilities leave her seeking something else that she had never had to worry about. Who is Rita Farr? It is the stage name that her parents gave her, stripping her of the family ties…so who is she meant to be now? 70 years on she is finally coming into her own, having trauma have frozen her, like Larry, at the time of the change…

Vic Stone, Cyborg is the only known “super hero” on the team, and with the vanishing chief this young adult becomes defacto leader. He first has to overcome who he is? His family system relationships with his father, Silas, and still grieving his deceased mother. Can he become whole and the person he is meant to be? Or will be become the person that outside forces and experience is going to cause him to become?

Cliff Steel (in the comics, Robotman) is a race care driver, witness of domestic violence as a child, who has become a drunken philanderer whose actions wind up killing his wife, leaving his child in the care of a reprobate, and his brain in the body of a robot. Now unable to feel, he must process his emotions, and come into his humanity as a non-human. Cliff meets, Jane, another member of the Doom Patrol…and has a second chance…

Jane has 64 personalities within her, and each personality has a different power. The Underground is where they all live, her mind…well not Jane’s because in Dissociative Identity Disorder there is primary identities and that is what Jane is…not the true person, that is Kay…and it is the story of what happens with Adverse Childhood Experiences, and the psyche. Can Jane become whole?

Oh Cliff don’t take responsibility for the therapy it was probably the rat (Admiral Whiskers).

-Rita Farr

The series episodes all use the title format (blank) Patrol. The Eighth episode of season one is “Jane Patrol” and thanks to the Negative Entity, Cliff is able to travel into Jane’s Underground to find her.

I wish we could shrink down and enter her mind like Magic School Bus Style.

-Vic Stone, Cyborg

As Jane has gone catatonic after the previous episodes marriage shenanigans of her personality Karen. It is an opportunity to meet the personalities as they exist in the Underground for the viewer. Those that surface, and those that exist simply to protect from memories. As one goes deeper into the Underground more darker memories are locked away. The goal is Jane has to choose to re-emerge as the primary, or to cease to exist as a previous primary Miranda had. Cliff is journeying with Penny Farthing (the one that avoids all risks) to find and save Jane.

It’s not my story to tell.

-Cliff Steele

It is a visual and artistic journey that illustrates how Trauma echoes exist, cause pain, and that even how good memories can be suppressed as so dark. For the first meeting of Cliff and Jane is witnessed and Cliff asks Penny why it is there… Penny responds there is nothing more dangerous than giving hope.

As the episode draws to resolution it appears Jane has dealt with the control monster of her rapist-incest father…only to have her laying on her bed smiling and the echo of his voice to be heard…

Each era has created its own challenges and traumas for people depending on their life. Some we have learned from and strive to change and correct. Most we just shake our heads at and state, get over it and move on. The repression cycle does not help anyone, just creates cycles of violence, pain and trauma. The show is fun (I mean a donkey tunnel, a talking grass hopper, a rat seeking vengeance on Cliff for running over his mother to name but a few–oh and beard hunter)…but it raises questions on what it takes for healing and wholeness, and what we as a community need to do differently so as not to be making the same mistakes.

 


There are many four letter words that have come out of my mouth during this journey, and have been applied to my life and the ripple effects with my family. My journey on healing from trauma was supported awesomely though by having family it allowed me the space to heal. Not only heal, but make the connections within my flashbacks to trace core memories of trauma that needed to be rooted out, and healed to create the ripple within my own person.

It did feel like energy and electricity bursting through my body and leaving during the sessions. It was amazing as the weeks between would pass and different emotions of the spectrum would be felt- both positive and negative.

Yet, the work I did between sessions I would not encourage someone without a healthy in home support network to do…for in the isolation it could very easily go from healing to suicidal, it was a trip into the darkness and trusting the light path to bring you out.

Yes I am a person of faith, and that faith whether out there or subtle have played a role in my life. The same with this journey, and I am glad that in my life prayer and action go hand in hand, and the constant dialogue within myself and the Holy Mystery is there. It was amazing as I began healing to see the different opportunities that opened up for me and my family, the different places where we could connect for joy, love and healing. Where our faith would be rewarded, and where we could see communities around us come out of their own struggles into a new dynamic understanding of belonging as happened with our home church in Calgary in regards to the faith challenged laid down by my son to them.

This is the winding road. The ripples like upon a river or lake created by a skipping stone. The soul ripples that answered the question, what happens when the helper needs help?

They discover who their true family is (whether blood or chosen, there are many who journeyed with us, and blessed us communally and individually that I may or may not have mentioned in these two volumes, to you all I say thank you). You also discover your own true self anew.

It was this sense that brought me to the remission appointment at the Foothills Hospital with my PhD. Psychologist where the healing began on February 14, 2019. Here I was entering the office once more on October 31, 2019…

Not knowing what may or may not come of the meeting, but one thing was certain.

Today was the day; I could firmly stand in my faith, in my healing.

It was the day where the four letter word that had carried my family through the darkness was fully lived and embraced. It was a beautiful four letters:

H-O-P-E-

My step into hope of the new dawn of my pilgrimage with Brother Jesus as I once more stepped into the office.

Soul Ripples

Posted: May 4, 2019 by Ty in Spirituality
Tags: , , , , ,

Narrative, story, what I have always told folks is important about writing our own Gospel. Much like the women at the Empty Tomb in the shorter end of the Gospel of Mark. I am on a journey of healing and recovery, the first phase is seeking to understand, that is my story in Soul Ripples (pre-order here).

The deeper question though is in this reflection on the book, from the higher plain:

coverThere were simple values passed down through the generations of the Ragan family. Basically, it was being neighbourly, whether it came from a religious or non-religious point of view. Throughout the generations’ decisions were made whether to suppress the bad, deal with it, or embrace love and the good. It was the stories shared, some hidden, and when unburied brought healing. 

It was in this life that the formal Christian Formation of Ty Ragan happened at his godparents’ church, Centennial Presbyterian, through their Vacation Bible School. These summers accentuated the already ingrained formation of loving your neighbour as yourself.  

Ty, spent a lifetime attempting to answer the question, as many formed in social gospel framework, “Who is my neighbour?” through journalism, teaching, church ministry, addictions work, outreaching to those being trafficked sexually, rough campers, those in homeless shelters, dementia wards, youth correction centres, affordable housing and everything in between. It was answering the question of who the neighbour is, and how to love them that drove his life’s vocation. 

Until May 2014 innocuous hand tremor led him to a doctor who told him to drink more water. By 2016 mysterious micro-strokes and seizures would occur. On his 39th birthday in 2017 a reign of mental destruction of high double-digit mystery seizures, failing memory, tremoring body and mystery vomiting would take him out of his vocation in October 2017, as he would simply weep “I can’t”. 

The journey would lead him to centre on a new question, the first part of the second love command, love yourself or more directly: 

Where does the helper go when they need help? 

Soul Ripples is his family’s story of laughter, love, tears, pain, loss, addiction, mental health, violence, community, friends, grieving and the steps towards healing. Learn a new way of experiencing life. That’s right, the faithful servant discovering what it means to experience life with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the living into the Wilderness to find healing. It is a story for not only individuals but churches that shows we are not alone, we are not independent, we are truly an interdependent people. Created by the Holy on the 6th day poetically, called blessed and Very Good. Discover the Soul Ripples. 


Image result for Heroes in Crisis #6How do you go forward when your world says you have brought hope, but your lightning rod is missing? This is the question Wally West raises in Heroes in Crisis #6 as he works through his trauma of returning to a world where his wife and kids do not exist. Where many of his friends remember him and the hope his return brings, he is empty inside.

The mystery deepens as to who has taken the Sanctuary for healing, into a web of murderous destruction. The psyche of many heroes and villains is explored in looking at what is holding them back from being whole.

It opens with questions around how many lives saved. Reflect on that, how does one judge a heroic life? How do you judge your own success in life? Is it through numbers, money, things, people?

What spells out success for you?

It is through this line of questioning that the character of Roy Harper Image result for Heroes in Crisis #6(Speedy/Arsenal/Red Arrow) emerges. The former young sidekick of Green Arrow; former heroin addict, single dad, former member of the Outlaws and Teen Titans. He is at Sanctuary working through his stuff, when this questions arises.

His answer speaks to the simplicity within my own life as to why I help:

“None of this, not one ounce is counting who you save. This all of it, is about doing what you can. It’s about getting off your couch. That’s all. Just get the &*#@ off the couch.”

-Roy Harper (Heroes in Crisis #6)

Like contentment, success and self-worth are intrinsic and discovered within. Not due to external factors. We do what we are called to do, we also need space to heal and be who we are meant to be. Heroes in Crisis is an in your face look at the toll of being on the front lines making this world better, and could easily be the story of many front line helpers that the world far too easily discards. The statement most heard when a helper needs aid from the world is, “its your job, do it or get out.” Instead of, “it’s a journey, let’s take a break and learn to heal so we can help others better.”

Image result for Heroes in Crisis #6

Where is your journey taking you?

 

 


Related imageThe Heroes in Crisis mini series has been excellent. Well paced with the super hero action, and the crime mystery noir feel of mystery to it. Who invaded Sanctuary? Who did the spree killing? Who removed the safe space for heroes to heal? These are the underlying questions.

But then the questions erupt even more as the mysterious Puddler has leaked the story to the media of Sanctuary. Lois Lane can only sit on the story for so long, and as issue 4 came to a close, it was revealed the story was going out.

This is the opening to issue 5. As Booster Gold and Harley Quinn, partnered with Blue Beetle and Bat-girl respectively seek out answers. Flash and Batman deep dive into this weird mystery.

Superman and Wonder Woman address the press. It is a timely tale within the week of Belle’s Let’s Talk, a social media initiative to remove stigma of mental health. It reveals that there is much more needed than simply social media awareness raising. It is a concerted effort by governments around the world to appropriately fund mental health care equally, and as part of universal health care. It is understanding what is happening, that it is shifting how one experiences the world. It takes courage to live differently, but it also takes courage to understand when one needs help, to seek that help out and to heal.

This is what Superman addresses to the world. The fear that they human citizens are feeling knowing that metas are struggling with trauma, and PTSD. The thoughts of someone that can level cities now being afflicted with what has been mistaken for violence trigger. It is a key piece of Superman’s press conference, and something everyone needs to understand with any first respondents, front line workers:

“The nightmares, the nightmares they will forever endure. Yes Sanctuary exists. It exists to help these heroes recover from this pain, to help them recognize themselves under these scars, to help them wake from these nightmares. But its existence, it should not scare you. On the contrary it should comfort you. This suffering, is needed for healing. It is not the mark of a madman. It is the wound of a warrior. It’s a sign. A sign of their love…”

-Superman, Heroes in Crisis #5

Will you live in fear of the unknown, or know that by someone opening up they will discover whey they are under the scars, and discover love of life once more.

 


 What follows below is my speaking notes from this morning, the pdf is just below for the power point slides noted in the bolded brackets throughout.

Men’s Prayer Breakfast, Centennial Presbyterian Church January 26, 2019 

mens prayer breakfast january 2019

Good Morning. We are exploring some aspects this morning of mental health and belonging, as was advertised it is a personal and professional faith journey. In our time this morning we are by no means going to touch upon the entire spectrum of mental health concerns, diagnosis, disorders and spectrums out there. I am going to share a bit about my journey, and the ones that have touched upon me the most. Now I am sure you are probably asking well who is this guy? 

That’s a good question, short answer in my name is Ty, and I have lived in Rundle my whole life, my goal in life is simple to make my own corner of the world a better place. I am currently travelling through the echoes of a life spent fighting back the darkness of our world, and creating safe courageous space for all to belong, but more on that piece later. I am a pilgrim, the ad described me as a monastic-psychologist. It is true, I hold a Doctor of Psychology, I sought it out because I needed to skills to aid folks in healing. I have a Bachelor of Arts from Alberta Bible College, and my Master or Arts is from Canadian Theological Seminary now Ambrose Seminary. Each degree earned with classes that aided me in my goal of making the world a bit better, not for any other reason. I am monastic, because at the core of my journey is a formation in the Franciscan Charism. St. Francis of Assisi founded an order about 800 years ago of the open hand, those that embraced justice, simplicity, and living out the gospel message of love. Many believe it is an anti-educational-intellectual order because of a teaching of Francis that you first must learn the first scripture before going to the next. He was not counselling us to be the frozen chosen, but rather to so live into the scripture that we are living it without even thinking about it, it simply becomes part of our DNA. 

For me, the journey of learning has been centered on the scripture that brought me into organized church and ministry, at 19 years old I was contemplating my 6th attempt at suicide. I had gone through a horrendous time for that time of my life where my then fiancée had decided to abort our child, and re-enter the sex trade to feed her addiction. I was at home, quietly putting things in order, giving/selling things. When I stumbled across the little red Gideon’s New Testament they used to give out in grade 5. It was in the bottom of my closet and the spine was broken open, and these little red letters spoke to me: 

(slide of Great Commandment) 

Something shifted in my depression, and I decided to go see my Nan that weekend, and try out this church thing, and the tumultuous seasons of my ministerial life would begin, as I started to be like the lawyer. 

(slide of Good Samaritan). 

This led me to a life journey involved in many aspects of church ministry, continuing an active writing and activism career that was already in place, building ministries, writing curriculums, entering into service in the homeless sector during the darkest times of our province, as austerity measures created a humanitarian crisis in Calgary where threat to human life was imminent each winter. I would also serve during my time as a chaplain to those with dementia, childrens and youth pastors, pulpit supply, college and university instructor from bachelor to post-graduate courses in a variety of topics, practicum supervisors, mentor for at risk youth and re-integration mentor for youth re-entering society from the young offender’s centre. I would do outreach in many of the cities in Canada for those in need, aiding those camping rough to find safety, and if they could not the next morning aiding authorities in identifying the bodies. Publish a few books. Oh and in the midst, I would find time to run for office and shape many policies for parties at both the Federal and Provincial level, but hey a man needs a hobby. 

Throughout this I began to shape a concept of belonging. That it is about aiding folks in understanding who they truly are, how the experience the world, and how we as community can aid them in achieving wholeness. 

(slide on mental health) 

In my teens and early 20’s like many Albertans I struggled with alcohol. It would not be until later that I would find out about my family’s predilection to alcoholism. But I made a hard decision at that time, after my one birthday where I woke up sore and alone at home, alcohol was not a good thing for me, it made me violent, it needed to end: 

(slide of Dix) 

Addiction comes in many forms.  

(addiction slide)  

It is a form of self-medicating, a numbing agent, a replacement for authentic belonging and authentic self. The challenge in our world, is that so many things that become addictive can be seen as societally acceptable: gambling we use to fundraise for our schools and hospitals and other non-profits, alcohol you are seen as abnormal if you do not drink in social settings- try being politically active and sober? Or a writer; work or fitness or religion- all things that are acceptable, but can also so overtake our lives that we can no longer function. 

(Opioid crisis slide) 

Today we are in a crisis in Canada as a result of our triage and siloed method of dealing with people in health care. We are in what the media and health care have termed an opioid crisis, it is due to the prevalence of Fentanyl. A drug originally designed for end of life pain allevement. Now opioids, when used for pain relief within medicine are not bad, that is the all or nothing view of our world. What is wrong, is those using them to self-medicate their own personal pain. Pain caused by our own inhumanity towards one another. What would change with the crisis if we moved out of isolation and fear mongering, into authentic community? A courageous safe space where we understand pain, we understand the journey of healing, and we are willing to believe and help at a deeper level. We are willing to allow belonging, knowing that the greatest fear in belonging is that when the person is no longer there, we shall mourn.  

That is why we avoid belonging. Whether it is belonging in our own skin (Love yourself) or opening space for belonging for neighbour (love your neighbour as yourself). 

(won’t you be my neighbour slide) 

I have already touched on a bit of my own struggle with depression. Depression is a normal reaction in the grief process of loss, it can also be more than short term however, and that is okay. It is how some experience life 

(Depression Slides) 

It is ironic, as a child I had convulsions, they were so severe in my toddler years I am told there was multiple times I stopped breathing and was blue. In the late 70’s early 80’s the treatment for such a thing was an anti-psychotic- Phenobarbitrol. It is a harsh long-term treatment, but it saved my life and my brain. Many children who were put on it, lost their lives to suicide or addiction in adolescence, or dropped out of life. It is still used in short term cases for stabilization before another anti-epileptic or anti-convulsant will be prescribed. I was on it from roughly age 2 to 9 years old, my convulsions left my brain scarred, and unbeknownst to us at the time, the medication had rewired things significantly. 

As my Mum entered into the journey of Breast Cancer that would eventually take her life; I was the Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries at a church; teaching and writing; working as a vocational coach for persons with disabilities; working on my Master’s oh and just for fun running for office while editing a political journal provincially, and a spiritual journal internationally is when the repercussions of what saved my life would hit. 

(I don’t wanna slide) 

Panic attacks. Tears or anger for no reason. Medication as my brain chemistry was out of balance. 

I was always and still am open about my own journey, if those who seek to facilitate healing cannot be open, how do we expect those seeking help to be open. There was a backlash, churches skittered away from me, as I transitioned back into a leadership role in the homeless sector I was abruptly informed that I was a weak leader for sharing my mental health with my team. That self-care and mental health care were not up to leaders to mentor staff in, it was their job to deal with the challenges of the job. 

Stigma. 

But through medication, self-care, what I termed soul work through spiritual direction and life coaching I emerged through that time on medication for a few years and things had improved.  It was also during this time that I lost my ordination by taking a stand that yes children with disabilities belong in God’s kingdom (but our journey of that is a tale for another time). 

As Shawna, my wife, is always proud to say, I taught many how to care for themselves, while caring for neighbour. Soul care, ensuring you can love yourself and are being the true you, while helping others become the true them. We did not expect what was to begin in 2016, but there are 4 scary letters out there that we need to remove the fear from: 

(PTSD Slides) 

Whether personally or professionally we as a family had created safe spaces for belonging, whether they found me through work, or showed up on our door step. Literally meals can be added to, coffee or tea can go on, kids can play, and life can happen as we just are: 

(Quote slide) 

I am going to share with you an article I wrote about what is happening in the now, it is the outcome of years of journeying in the darkness as the light, and taking a beating for views of belonging. A lifetime, as we spoke of before in a Franciscan way of learning how to live out the Great Commandments, and answer the question, Who is my neighbour? 

(PTSD-PNES Slide) 

613 is my number, what is yours? 

It is amazing the conversations one has as a parent, and then the journey it causes you to reflect upon. Before May 2016 sitting in an ER I never thought I would be here. See, growing up and throughout my life I admit to being socially awkward (to be kind), but there was something that always was wonderful, my mind. When it came to numbers it was something like Charlie on Numbers that the solution would come to me, but has no real idea what took me from problem to solution. My everyday mind would be able to focus on 3 or 4 tasks in front of me, while crunching solutions and dreams/plans for multitudes of other things (one of the main reasons I never took up this thing called driving). 

It is the blessing of this mind, with my heart for changing the world that allowed the drive in school (and the multiple degrees earned and given honourary); building programs; running for office; editing and writing; book publishing; teaching; outreach work; mentoring; life coaching; spiritual direction; public speaking; pulpit supply; and the list can go on in my short life I had packed in multiple life times. Standing in the darkness and walking with those in the midst so they could come into their light. Discover who they truly were; teaching and facilitating others in discovering their passions and ways to make a living at it. I believe my life showed that you can chase dreams, and still hold true to your core values, not having to surrender who you are to make a difference in this world. At one point I looked back on my time in ministry and realized I had the opportunity to speak into nearly 1,000 young lives for the better. 

But it started to shift in May and then October 2016 in the ER with weird brain activity, memory loss, chest pains and left-hand tremors. But I was told I was normal and fine, so carry on at discharge, after a day or two at home back at it. Back at the work of walking with folks to create home and community. 

In the later part of 2017 as summer approached, professional and personal griefs/stressors were there. Waying on one’s spirit. I felt tired, and my brain was foggy. Like I had taught so many though, back to the daily practice, self-care, seeking out those who can aid you in debrief and carry forward, keep yourself healthy. And why wouldn’t I be tired? It was a phase, been there done that. My vocabulary, and understanding of some basic concepts began to fail me. Again, I looked back on what was happening with those in personal and professional life passing away, assumed it was a grief cycle (my son’s friends were passing away, always hard). 

But then my birthday hit and the game changed. 

Seizures (Grand Mal and absent), multiple in rapid succession. Lost memory and time. Not only in the now, but lost memories, I could not recall things. It kept happening, I became the ER’s daily flier if you will…and oh so cold, my body had gone hypothermic, in retrospect to protect my heart. Medical science couldn’t answer the question. Weird things being vomited out. Tests were toss ups. 

But when the seizures hit, and I would come back so would the pain. The life of being a light in the darkness, but only the darkness would come back. Decades of being in the pain, looking back and having my mind lie to me saying that I was a failure, had not made a difference. My memories that would reboot, it was like an old DOS computer with dust on the floppy, the self-care wouldn’t come with it. My healing and growing of scar tissue were gone, it was rapid succession of the pain that cut to the very core of who I was. I tried to work through, my agency was wonderful in their support. 

But I was not me. My beautiful gift, my mind, was failing. Things that I knew by rote, and was simple neurological muscle memory were gone, fog was constant, stabbing pains, tremoring arm, in ability to sleep, hypothermic and I won’t share how when I went down finally for health reasons the days of weird chemicals I had been exposed to expelling from my body (oh and the constant daily seizures, at one point almost 40 a day). Tests of the blood, body and brain, but the flashbacks persisted. 

It wasn’t something that was expected. I had learned to take care of myself, to rely on supports, to keep healthy, to use vacation time and to chase passions. This was against the narrative. But it persisted. Advancing from basic neurology to complex, in hospital observational stays, and all the epileptoligists/neurologists looking at my brain scans and medical files to reach a decision on what was happening. Finally, in the last month or two having confirmed diagnosis, PTSD-PNES, and now due to the Third Way boondoggle that was Klein’s legacy, I wait for the aid to cure and move forward. In the mean time the seizures are not epileptic but bring all the fears of those types of seizures with them everything from falls to sudden death, with no medications that can be prescribed to control them. 

With each seizure my number reminds me of where I have walked. 613 that is 613 in my life of family, friends, children, parishners, and clients I was unable to do more than journey with to the final transition to the next life. Most I was present for last rites or the passing or performed the celebration of life, if not all of it. In the travels I continue to use that which some may say is fruitless. Yet I persist. I pay the price for the persistence to keep going, I am not as good as I used to be, not even close…but I keep trying, working on myself while I wait. 

This time I feel like Alice having stepped through the looking glass, or Kirk into the Mirror Universe. I have seen what the darkness unchecked has done to my soul. I know what the light is. I struggle to believe in myself once more for with each reboot I still have to work through the lies my heart tells me that I am a failure, for even if it is a simple spark I need to hold to it…that I make a difference simply by being. 

What is your number? 

 (Authentic you slide) 

The Great Commandment lays out a challenge for us. It is about realizing that we are created in God’s image. As such we cannot say we love God with our everything, if we do not love ourselves. To love ourselves speaks of belonging in our own skin, having our purpose, it is not about jobs, it is about knowing why we are here and having a means to live it out. It is also understanding we need to love our neighbour who is also the image of God. Creating the courageous safe space for belonging so they can discover themselves. Within that space journeying with one another in the same vein. 

People constantly ask me what’s next? I honestly do not know, step one is to get the healing work done, then look at a return to work. What will that look like? I do not know. In the mean time I have purpose, I write, I teach when I can, I do some research and writing for my Dad and his wife’s project, Countess Country Musuem. I am beginning to work on a family memoir on the topic of mental health and belonging to remove the stigma. Most importantly though in this time of healing, I am a husband and a Dad in an amazing loving family. 

I leave you with a question to mull, 

What’s next for you? 

(Christian Counsellors slide) 

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Good Night,

Sleep tight,

don’t let the bed bugs bite.

-Ancient bedtime incantation against the blood sucking buggars

Image result for bed bugsBED BUGS! Feel it. That uncontrollable desire to itch or scratch? Don’t hide it. I know you did. I spent years being the go to in infestation control for multiple buildings. It is a creepy feeling. I have seen infestations so bad that there was a symbiosis created by tenant and insect, to the newest ones that are picked up in life transit.  We have all heard the news reports of the explosions of bed bugs on airplanes, in churches, movie theatres, low rent motels, high rent hotels, and schools. These are travelers, see bed bugs are searching for hosts. They love our carbon dioxide. The ones in public spaces are seeking a person to take them home. There is so many because 1000’s can literally be born in days. The female bed bug is impregnated by thousands of mates all at once, and births the babies in a cycle.

They are translucent until they feed. There source of food? Us. If there is a huge infestation, and they cannot sufficiently feed I have seen situations where they will feed on a pet, but usually a pet in used as a public transit mechanism for them to go to other places and spread their colonies. By what are they making a comeback so strongly in Canada? Well, we had them obliterated, unfortunately the chemicals used to wipe them out were also wiping us out via carcinogens. Dang it.

Image result for bed bugsBy mechanical function how early an infestation is detected states how many sprays are needed (minimum usually two). If you rent, the landlord in Alberta is responsible for footing the bill for the spray (sorry homeowners, its on us for our own). The responsibility of the tenant (and the infested if you own) is to promptly follow through on all instructions laid out by the pest control company to ensure the efficacy of the sprays.

Appears very simple. One notes like the picture above or less and calls in; or has noted 3 clustered bites (breakfast-lunch-dinner)together resembling small or large mosquito bites and calls for pest control (keep in mind not everyone shows bites, for the bite showing is an allergic reaction so you can be being feasted on and never even know it, it is why in communal living like hotels, condos, and apartment blocks random inspections help by trained pest control).

Yet this is not a simple carpet beetle infestation where carpet replacement or vacuuming will cure, or flour beetles that require cleaning and food disposal. This is a very intimate type of infestation and that can be missed is that part of the process is mental health supports. Sadly in 2013 in Montreal, a gent with pre-existing mental health conditions completed a suicide due to recurrent Bed Bug infestations. Though I can attest one does not need pre-existing mental health or health conditions to provide an unkind end.

Image result for bed bugsBed bugs get in your most intimate spots–truly. They disrupt sleep. They interrupt sexual relations. If you talk to others about it, they recoil and stigmatize you. See we assume bed bugs equate to dirty lifestyle or living. That is a fallacy. Bed Bugs are seeking food (us), they do not care if you are a hoarder or a minimalist, hospital clean or junkyard mucky, young, old, senior, Millennial, wealthy or poor. They just want your blood.

One would then think, well treatment happens it ends right. No, it does not, one is encouraged not to abandon their resident during treatment cycles as you are literally the bait to contain the infestation. Best case scenario, after two weeks it is free and clear with maybe a lingering of psychosomatic itchiness. Worst case scenario, multiple sprays and many if not all belongings disposed of to ensure reoccurence stops. Literally losing one’s life (material, or completed suicide).

What can this do? Lack of sleep is never a good thing for the human body. Isolation due to stigmatization is never a good thing. Fear of an area of the house (usually happens with where you sleep), but can happen with the whole residence. During treatment cycles, prep, stress, already existing mental health concerns can be exacerbated or new ones can be created: panic attacks to psychotic breaks are not out of the realm of possibility for a rather mentally healthy individual (recurrence after treatment has also been termed Post Traumatic Bed Bug Stress Disorder). For addictions, they can get worse and reach crisis levels, most prevalent being gambling, alcoholism, and drug use. One can also become more open to addiction symptoms to deal with the stress and trauma of the infestation. Sadly as well, pre-existing domestic violence can increase rapidly around this as the infestation can become the focal point of rage and blame.

Knowing that inspection brings people into one’s sanctuary (home); treatment brings others into the sanctuary and tears it apart; living with the buggars has its own terrors. Is it any wonder that mental health is something that needs to be navigated, acknowledged, and treated during and after this time? If we ignore it, we are simply ignoring what is right for our neighbour and ourselves.

Best pest control company I have worked with in Calgary is Martin’s Pest Control.

Image result for bed bugs