30 November 2013


I have had a rough time over the last little while.

I was carrying on in what seemed like a perfectly normal fashion … doing chores once a day (love the new feeders The Boy made, one top up per day is enough to keep everyone fed!), keeping up with the online store, doing my knitting projects, working on the new book … just … you know, living and staying within my limits, not pushing anything too hard.

Then I woke up one morning last week a little bit later than usual, and headed out to do chores without first eating breakfast.

I came in after feeding the animals, and just didn’t want to eat yet. Lunch came and went, I wasn’t hungry.

I made supper for everyone … but I wasn’t feeling up to table conversation so I went in the other room and came back just to do cleanup.

I went to bed early. I hadn’t eaten all day. I knew something was not right.

The next day, I did the same thing. I realized that I could hear Scared Girl in my head, screaming “Don’t stop working, whatever you do, KEEP MOVING!”. I cleaned, I did laundry, I made meals that I did not eat. I made it another full day with no food. I did drink a glass of milk and two small glasses of water. I’d had nothing else for two days and just couldn’t stand the thought of eating, even though I was hungry. Scared Girl wouldn’t let me go near food. Or ask for help. Or slow down.

I went to bed early again. I was miserable. Everyone knew it. They tried to stay out of my way, and I just felt worse.

The third morning, I still couldn’t eat. I was doing every job I could think of, yet feeling completely at loose ends, and utterly terrified for no reason I could identify. The Reluctant Farmer said, “You are safe here. It’s okay.” I yelled at him and said that it wasn’t safe, he was lying, it’s NEVER safe. He actually took it all very calmly, which is much to his credit. I was way over the deep end by then.

Finally, after everyone else had eaten dinner and everything was cleared up and put away … I heated a small plate of spaghetti and slowly, carefully, managed to take a bite.

It was far more difficult than it should have been to put that first bite to my mouth and taste the food. But once I got started, I was able to finish the whole serving … and I reheated some more and ate that too. Things began to look up when I was no longer starving.

I talked to the Reluctant Farmer, a little bit. It was hard. My words would not come. He was very kind and supportive.

I slept. I rested. I had no energy.

I am slowly regaining my strength, but I do not really know what happened to knock me on my backside so thoroughly. It was like the old stuff just overwhelmed me out of the blue, and I was back in the nightmare.

I will see my counsellor in a few days and we’ll see what we can sort out. In the meantime, I am doing only the bare minimum, and resting. My mind is thoroughly scattered, but I’m at least taking care of myself now.

I’m calling it a relapse, for lack of any better phrase. Something just … caught me, pulled me under, and it took a lot of patience, support and strength of will to choose to come back out.

It goes to show that I still have a ways to go to get to full healing, I suppose. For all the breakthroughs in my understanding, for all the insight I’ve gained, all the compassion and forgiveness and empathy I have found … my biochemistry is still fragile, and without proper care and attention, I can be very unwell in very short order.

Hopefully with the help of my counsellor we can figure out how to get me on more of an even keel … maybe what I thought was “not doing too much” was, in fact, more than I can handle. Maybe there was some small triggering phrase or event that tripped me up and I didn’t notice because the reaction was delayed. Maybe we can defuse those triggers, find those boundaries, and stabilize things some more.

At least now, I recognize what’s happening. Even in the middle of it all, I knew I was terrified – which was a step forward. Before I didn’t recognize the fear, I thought I was just angry about being such an inadequate human being. This time, I heard the fear – and although I couldn’t conquer it as readily as I would have liked, in the end, I *did* choose to step towards the light, and I did choose to ask for and accept help. It was really hard, but I did it.

So why write this post, and tell everyone about something so embarassing, so frightening?

Because I have made a commitment to speak honestly about my journey out of the darkness that is PTSD – for the sake of others who walk this road, or who walk alongside someone travelling this road. I want people to understand that even when someone seems to be doing really well, even after they have made the connections and come to grips with the past and found peace with all that happened, there are still obstacles wired into the psyche and the body that can trip you up with no warning. That healing from trauma is a lot more than just “finding closure” or “making peace with the past” – that even after you have thought and talked and written your way through the old mess, the hard-wired, deeply conditioned responses to (frequently invisible) triggers are still there, and those take longer to undo.

I didn’t go over the edge because of anything I was *thinking* … thinking wasn’t even involved. I just … reacted. To something. I have an idea what it might have been, but honestly, even if I’m right in identifying the trigger, it was just an ordinary, every day kind of thing that to anyone else would have been utterly unremarkable.

Yet my mind reacted to it like the dogs to Pavlov’s bell.

In time, and with hard work, we can get that response deconditioned, but oi. In the meantime … one foot after another on this road to healing. I know where I’m headed, and I know I’ll get there. With help, and support, and hard work.

I’m okay now, really. But I felt compelled to write about what happened, because I have chosen not to hide anymore.

Yes, I’m wounded … but I am healing. Verb. Active process. Still ongoing.

Thank you for bearing witness to my journey.

19 November 2013


I had counselling today.

I got some good ideas.

I have a new strategy.

I know I need to ‘open the door’ to let the old memories come up, and let the old feelings be expressed, and then send them on their way. PTSD is, in lots of ways, what happens when feelings aren’t able to be expressed at the time (because it wasn’t safe, there wasn’t time, etc.) .. and until those feelings have their moment in the spotlight, their chance to say “see me, hear me, let me be..” they cannot go on to peacefulness, but stay stuck, and causing problems.

So, I need to let the old stuff surface.

The thing is, I can’t bring it all up at once. It would be overwhelming and I would end up in Ponoka (the town in our province where the big Mental Hospital is, it’s where you get sent if you are REALLY CRAZY).

So I need to let the old stuff out a little at a time. How do I do that?

Today we decided on a strategy.

I will take my book - Just Keep Knitting - which is the story of … well, my story. Then I will use random.org to pick a page at random and then I will write about THAT part of the story in my journal. But I must write from the Third Person perspective, the Observer, so that I do not get caught in the old story, but I can stand back, and “see it”, witness it, be there to say “I SEE THAT THIS HAPPENED”.

And then I will say, “That day, on that page of the story, it was sad.”

Because really, all of that story was sad.

And when I can find the sadness, the sorrow, that is but one step away from healing.

I can do sorrow. I can do sadness. I know these feelings. They are familiar and comfortable - if painful. They are not fear, not anger, not frustration … just … sadness.

Because really, it was a sad story. It could have gone so differently. It could have been better. It could have been full of grace, full of forgiveness, full of compassion. But it wasn’t, and that is sad.

And I can be sad. And then, when I am done being sad, I can heal.

And so this is what I will be doing next. But only one page per week. No more, or I may overwhelm my coping skills.

So, this is what I will be doing.

And I know you will all be with me, holding my hands, making sure I do not fall, reminding me that NOW in THIS MOMENT I am safe, and loved, and treasured for WHO I AM.

You are part of my healing journey.

Thank you all for being here for me.

18 November 2013


Yesterday, I attended another fantastic yoga and journal writing workshop with Angela Weins of Yoga Inner Spirit.

Today, I am working on my next book – More Beautiful Than Before, an exploration of fibre arts and journalling for self-expression and emotional healing.

Because you see, at the workshop, as I anticipated, things got shaken loose … and I am inspired to work and to write.

Here is a small excerpt from the writing I did … and which will be in the next book, too, apparently.


Openness, the card says.

As I began today, I prayed “Show me. Show me what it is that needs to come up to the surface, whatever it is that is lying behind the locked door of memory and fear.”


One must open the door.

Allow the memories to surface – allow the feelings their expression. Openness. Not the slamming, closing door, the angry burst of sound as the door hits the frame. Openness is the wind blowing the door open, letting the crystal snowflakes drift across the floor.

Openness is being willing. Being willing to see where things go – to open your arms and embrace the sky. To open your heart and embrace your life. Even if your life is not the way you had envisioned it. When you are open, you allow the Universe to bring change to your world … and what Has Been … it’s uncomfortable. Constrained. Unhealthy.

Openness. Let the wind blow open the door of your soul and deliver tiny crystalline gifts to your heart.

11 November 2013


I am a pacifist for many reasons.

War is wasteful – of lives, of resources. Politicians send thousands of men and women into battle … and those who decide that our soldiers need to fight will not, themselves, be on the battlefield like the kings of old. They will sit safely ensconced behind oak desks and order men and women into strange lands to kill other people, to dodge IEDs, to watch for treachery among the civilians they are supposed to be protecting, to be on guard every moment of every day.

And then we bring those soldiers back, and expect them to go back to home and hearth and adjust.

More and more, those soldiers cannot adjust. It’s always been hard – “battle fatigue” was identified centuries ago – but modern warfare seems to be taking an even greater toll on our soldiers. They don’t just march out to a big open field and line up against the enemy for a day or two of living hell: now the enemy could be around any street corner, could be a woman with a stroller, a bomb on a deserted road. There is no “eve of battle” … the war goes on and on and on, every moment of every day.

Is it any wonder that when they come home they cannot unwind? That the nightmares deprive them of rest? That they cannot let their guard down enough to love their families and children freely? That the suffering and pain drive many to suicide?

I live with a relatively mild version of PTSD – and it has turned my world upside down.

Canada is making efforts to care for our soldiers (and our police officers, who, more and more, are dealing with the kinds of violence and trauma that lead to mental health crises). Our efforts are not always successful, of course, but there is at least official recognition of the “human cost of military operations”. Even the military admits, however, that their resources are overstretched: new clinics have been set up to address Operational Stress Injury, but people still have to wait for help, and they suffer while they wait.

There is more awareness about PTSD and Operational Stress Injury in the general public, but we still have a long way to go. People are still told to “suck it up” to “stop being a wuss” to “get over it already”. Nobody would ever say that to someone who needed physiotherapy to get an injured leg back to full functionality, but we haven’t quite gotten to the place where everyone recognizes that the brain – like any other part of the body – may be injured, and need treatment and therapy to heal. Like any other part of the body, healing may be complete … or not. Someone might be left with a limp after having a leg shot or crushed or broken. A mind might be left with a limp, too – situations or smells or sounds that trigger unavoidable (and probably embarassing) overreactions.

Be kind. You have no idea what kind of battle another is fighting inside their mind – whether the trauma they lived through was combat, a horrible accident, abuse, or a close call with death. It hurts. Help them heal.

And since it is Remembrance Day …

Yes, wear your poppy for remembrance, and work for peace. But please, don’t thank our soldiers for “fighting for our freedom”.

Think back over your history lessons …

The War of 1812: Okay, yup, our borders were threatened. It happened because we were a British Colony, and the only way the US could strike at Britain was through us, but hey, we were in the way, and we got shot at. We shot back. Of course at the time we weren’t even a country, and didn’t have our own military, so really, this was a battle between the US and Britain. No “Canadian Military” fought in this war. There wasn’t a Canadian Military then. It went on for a couple of years and in the end, the borders were put right back where they had been at the start.

Now, we did have our own army by the time World War I came about. Were our freedoms threatened by anyone in WWI? (World War I was primarily about imperialism, trade, and power). Nope, we joined because we were legally bound to help Britain. But it wasn’t about us or our freedoms. It was about our obligation to help political allies.

Okay, but WWII … the Holocaust! Yes, the Holocaust was an evil that needed to be stopped: but the war began out of the ashes of the first war. The ‘war guilt’ clause of the Treaty of Versailles created many of the conditions for the second war … and once again we had nationalism, economics, and the desire for military power in play. The racism came in later. (It hasn’t gone away, either – “ethnic cleansing” still happens: sometimes we step in, and sometimes we don’t.)

Korea? The Gulf War? Afghanistan? Iraq? Libya?

None of this has had anything to do with Canadian freedoms. So  let’s stop saying it, shall we? Our freedoms were negotiated by – heaven help us – politicians. 

The Canadian military does plenty for Canadians: the Red River Flood, the Ice Storm, the BC Fires. And they participate in peacekeeping missions … which are not always very much about peace, but are one way of helping to make the world a better place.

Let’s thank them for what they really do, and make sure they never actually have to fight for our freedom.

Let’s see if we can make sure they never have to fight at all.

01 November 2013


It's the first day of hunting season here - which means I'll be hearing the noise of gunshots for the next month, and worrying about my guardian dogs. They are usually pretty good about staying home near the sheep but they do wander off into the Crown land at the corner (which is open for hunting), so I am always a bit anxious during November lest someone not be sufficiently cautious with their aim. I have no problem with people taking deer for their freezers, don't get me wrong, but not everyone is as careful as one might hope … I worry about having someone knocking on my door for first aid because someone wasn't clear on their target before shooting or some such thing. People are injured every year - though not close to us, so far.

All the snow we had last week has melted away, which is a little unusual for this time of year but not really strange - we usually have snow before Halloween, and sometimes it stays, sometimes not. We do need a good solid snow pack or we have drought in the following year, so hopefully the snow will start up soon ... though I have to say it's nice to have it not be so cold yet.

I have a fire going in the woodstove, heating water for tea and warming the house. A friend had some land cleared last year and had a bunch of trees down, so yesterday he and The Boy brought a pickup load full of long logs for The Reluctant Farmer to chop into firewood ... that'll top up our existing wood pile and see us well through the winter, even with both stoves going frequently. Yay! Because firewood is free and natural gas is not, we try to keep the fires going in the south wing every day (where we spend most of our time) and then in the north wing in the evenings, to warm the bedrooms for the night. It takes a big dent out of the heating bill and is cheery to boot.

Of course this means it’s nearly time to put the bubblewrap on the windows, and start closing the drapes every evening to keep the warmth inside.

Today, though, it’s still pretty nice outdoors, and I have other things to work on: I am doing my “final exam” for my first aid instructor course this weekend (teaching a standard first aid class with another instructor) so I have some final preparation to do.

I’d best get back to it, I suppose … now that the tea is ready.